While no one looks forward to identity theft, it is a reality that happens to at least one in ten people. This means that your personal details might fall into the wrong hands, and someone might use them to open new accounts and steal your money, among other fraudulent activities.
Fortunately, you can take steps to minimize possible damages and hopefully regain what you have lost. Here are five things to do if someone steals your identity:
1. File a claim with your identity theft insurance
Perhaps you have insurance that protects you in cases of identity theft, either through an identity protection plan or through your employer. If so, your provider can help guide you through the steps you need to take. Once you notice that someone stole your identity, your insurance company or your human resource department should be one of the first places you call.
2. Notify companies of your stolen identity
If identity thieves have taken over your accounts, they might have compromised your credit card number. However, this does not necessarily mean they already have access to your other personal information. You can quickly solve this issue by calling your credit card issuer and explaining that about the compromise of your identity.
On the other hand, if someone uses your identifying information such as your name and your social security number to open up new accounts, you may want to call as many companies as you can with which you have accounts.
If someone used your social security number to file false tax returns, you need to submit a form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit to report the crime to the IRS.
Similarly, you should notify your healthcare insurance provider if someone is impersonating you to obtain medical care under your name or policy number.
3. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Though the Federal Trade Commission cannot pursue criminal charges, law enforcement agencies such as the FBI can use the information it gathers about identity theft and fraud to track down identity thieves.
To file a report with the FTC, visit the website www.identitytheft.gov. It will provide you with a reporting plan and even get some pre-filled forms that you can use to file reports and dispute fraudulent charges.
4. Contact your local police department
Once you file a report with the FTC, your next stop should be your local police department.
Notifying the police about the theft of your identity creates a paper trail. This can protect you in the future. For example, if an identity thief uses your identity to commit a crime, it would be much easier to clear your name if there is documentation.
Please note that there is little that the police can do if someone from overseas stole your identity. However, your report can help them track down the perpetrator if it’s someone you know or a local.
However, it is still important to file a report with the police even if the identity theft happened online.
5. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports
The next step is to call the major credit reporting agencies such as TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Request that they place a fraud alert on your credit reports. A fraud alert stays on your credit report for a year. It lets the institutions that pull your credit report know that your identity has been compromised.
Although you only have to report to one credit reporting bureau, because they will notify the other two, there is no harm in calling all three. Here are their telephone numbers:
For added security, freeze your credit so that no one can access your credit reports. It’s also a good idea to freeze your children’s credit because they can also have their identity stolen.
These simple steps can go a long way in enabling you to stop identity thieves from causing further damage to your reputation. In some cases, they can help you recover what you have lost and even prevent you from paying for crimes you didn’t commit.
Don’t forget to monitor your financial statements and check for any payments or accounts you did not create. Also, make it a habit to thoroughly examine your statements from time to time. It is also a good idea to financial institutions about how you can best avoid identity theft in the future.