One of the top questions we often hear at IdentityForce is, "I think my identity was stolen; what do I do now?" And given how criminals are increasingly focusing their attention on medical records, tax returns and employment files, we hear this question from possible victims more and more.
Staying vigilant about changes in your personal information can help you spot an incident sooner and avoid theft.
6 Steps to Take If You Suspect Your Identity Has Been Stolen
- Confirm the theft: Look for evidence theft occurred through your credit report, bank and credit card statements and recent notices from a healthcare insurer or government agency. Some common warning signs include suspicious activity or changes you didn’t make on your credit report, changes to your personal information or bills or charges you don’t recognize. Sometimes, identity thieves send fraudulent statements to try to get you to share your information.
- Place a credit freeze: For maximum protection, you may want to freeze your credit, which means potential creditors can't check your credit report, reducing the chance that a new account can be opened in your name. You have to place a credit freeze individually with each credit bureau. Putting a credit freeze in place doesn't impact your credit score.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit: If you want to add a fraud alert to your credit report, you just need to contact one of the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your file. This alert will make it more difficult for new credit applications to be accepted without additional verification. The notice stays on your record for one year, giving you time to work on clearing your name. You can also renew the alert once the initial year is up.
- Begin a paper trail: Next, start contacting different institutions, like your bank or credit card company. Document your attempts to clear your name. Record any relevant information, such as logging phone calls by date, time, contact and resolution status. Mail documents with a return receipt request so you have a record of those transactions. Some types of fraud have a timeframe for reporting, so create a calendar to ensure you don't miss any important deadlines.
- Create an identity theft report: The FTC provides step-by-step instructions for reporting identity theft, which can help get fraudulent information removed from your credit report and stop collection companies from trying to make you pay for debts caused by identity thieves.
- File a police report: Notify your local law enforcement agency and file a police report. Have your identity theft report from the FTC on hand when you do so. The police report will be an important document to have when dealing with banks, credit agencies and potential bill collectors.
Additional Things to Do If Your Identity is Stolen
There are additional precautions you can take in your day-to-day activities to reduce your risk of identity theft. These include using cash rather than debit cards, not giving out your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary and increasing security settings on your social media accounts.
Since thieves often target the same victim multiple times, you may want to consider enrolling in a service like IdentityForce's UltraSecure, which monitors your personal information 24/7 and notifies you quickly of any suspicious activity. If identity theft damage does occur, IdentityForce will be with you every step of the way to help you restore your identity.
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