It's very important to understand what to do if your identity is stolen. In today's world, it seems like every few months, there is a news report about a security breach. And these breaches have the potential to leave masses of people susceptible to identity theft and credit fraud.
There are multiple ways someone can steal your identity, from lost purses or a wallet to using public wi-fi. Thieves may even steal your information from ATMs.
One of the largest breaches in recent times was the Equifax breach which was estimated to have affected over 143 million people. That's almost 1/2 of the population of the U.S! Crazy right?
It may have left many people wondering what to do if someone steals your identity. Well, knowing that security breaches can and do occur, here are some key things you need to do.
You can minimize the impact and protect yourself from potential credit fraud when you know how to report identity theft.
15 steps for what to do if your identity is stolen
If someone steals your identity, this can affect many things. From debit cards to your bank accounts and bank account numbers, and driver's license numbers, a lot of your personal information can be compromised.
Because this can happen without you realizing it, it's important to prepare and know how to report identity theft.
From knowing the answer to "how do I file a police report for identity theft?" to "how do I notify the post office?", you'll find answers here.
There are many preventative measures you can take. Such as having identity theft insurance and identity theft protection service, monitoring credit reports, etc. Also, find out where to look to see if theft has occurred.
Victims of identity theft unfortunately have to work hard to fix a problem they didn't create. But having preventative measures in place can help with ID theft.
1. Check your credit immediately to confirm if your identity was stolen
If you have concerns about identity theft and want to know what to do if your identity is stolen, check your credit immediately with a free credit report. You want to make sure everything on your credit report is as expected.
Get your free credit report
You have access to a free copy of your credit report from all 3 credit bureaus each year via annualcreditreport.com.
Many banks are also now offering this service for free with your accounts. Alternatively, you can choose to pay for one.
The bottom line is that you need to stay on top of checking your credit to make sure nothing strange is going on there. If things are amiss, keep reading.
2. Alert the credit bureaus immediately
Alert the credit bureaus to report the situation and place a fraud alert or freeze on your credit reports to prevent any additional damage.
A credit freeze (or security freeze) lets you restrict access to your credit report. This means lenders will not be able to access your credit to approve any unauthorized lines of credit until you remove the freeze.
It's a good idea to learn how credit works and check in on it at least once a month regardless. Checking your own credit does not impact your score.
3. Get a credit monitoring service in place
Just because a breach has happened does not mean identity theft or credit fraud will happen right away.
If you're determining what to do if someone steals your identity, know that it could take months or years before you are affected.
Usually, when a company is impacted by a security breach e.g. Equifax, they typically offer free credit monitoring of some sort for a period of time.
However, there are several other companies that can do this for you as well. I don't blame you if you don't want to go with the company that caused all the trouble in the first place!
How credit monitoring helps you
When you have your credit monitored it will alert you when someone applies for a line of credit or adds one in your name. The monitoring will help you keep track of exactly what's going on with your credit.
Keep in mind that even if you have a credit freeze, it's a good idea to still have credit monitoring. Because the fraud could happen on your existing accounts which a credit freeze does not impact.
4. Report the problem to the FTC
As soon as you realize that your identity was stolen, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) right away.
By making this report to the FTC, you'll get guidance on how to create a recovery plan. They'll provide you with guidance on how to:
- Close new accounts created in your name
- Remove bogus charges from your accounts
- Correct your credit report
- Clear your name of criminal charges
- Manage theft on specific accounts e.g. government benefits, student loans, bankruptcy filed in your name, etc.
By filling and documenting this report quickly, you may also be able to limit your financial liability as well.
5. File a police report
Identity theft is a crime. So you're probably asking, "how do I file a police report for identity theft?"
When figuring out what to do if your identity is stolen, having a police report from your local law enforcement agency can help support any claims you file to dispute theft.
By filing a report with your local police department, you may also be aiding the police in fighting existing identity theft cases.
When you file the police report, be sure to have a copy of your FTC report and proof of your identity being stolen, in addition to your address and ID, according to US News.
You'll also want to get a copy of this report to share with the credit bureaus, your creditors, and service providers to keep on record as part of your case file.
So now you know the answer to, "how do I file a police report for identity theft?" and you're one step closer to getting your life back to normal.
6. Get access to any documents related to the identity theft
To better prepare, you should gather all the documents that relate to the theft.
According to the FTC, you can do this by writing a request for the documents to the company where the theft happened. You must also include a police report, an FTC identity theft report, and identification when you do this.
7. Be sure to notify the IRS
It's also essential that you make the IRS aware of any identity theft. Someone could attempt to use your information to create a fake tax return and get money from a tax refund.
You can go to the IRS website to find out what to do if your identity is stolen and how to notify them about the fraud.
8. Let the DMV know
You'll find out your driver’s license can also be affected by this, so it's essential to understand what to do if someone steals your identity related to your license.
If you suspect someone has stolen your license, contact your local DMV and let them know about the situation. You can add a flag to your license to prevent fraud.
9. Notify your health insurance of the fraud
When deciding what to do if your identity is stolen, you'll find that you may also need to let your health insurance know about the fraud. Someone may be trying to use your insurance for medical procedures or medicine.
You should ask for any associated medical records and let your medical providers know.
10. Contact the Social Security Administration
If your identity is stolen, your social security can also be affected. If you think someone could be using your social security number, you can contact the Social Security Administration (SSA). They can check their records to make sure there isn't any fraud.
11. Contact the post office
Be sure to contact the post office as well. This is to ensure that no one tried to authorize a change of address in your name. You can also fill out paperwork to make sure they are aware of the situation and have a record of the theft.
12. Change online passwords and pins associated with your financial information
It's a good idea to change the passwords or pins you have associated with your personal and financial information as soon as possible.
You may not know right away exactly what information the thief took and so it's better to take all precautions.
You can set calendar reminders for yourself to change your passwords every few months. Make sure that you create strong passwords that are not easy to guess. Also, avoid using devices you don't trust.
13. Contact your creditors and service providers
You'll also want to contact your creditors or service providers to report the situation. You can then begin the dispute process with them for any fraudulent claims made in your name.
You can provide the FTC and police reports you filed to them as well to help further validate your claim. Identity thieves can set up services like utilities in your name and so it's important to contact your service providers as well.
Also, be sure that you notify any companies that are reporting inaccurate information to the credit bureaus due to identity theft. That way your credit isn't impacted.
14. Review your bank and credit card accounts and statements
Take some time out to review your bank and credit statements for any discrepancies.
You may be able to catch the theft early by doing this. Especially if the transactions have not yet been reported on your credit profile. Be sure to also make your bank's fraud department aware of the situation.
15. Look for any fraudulent accounts in your name, dispute, and close them
As you review your credit profile, look for any fraudulent accounts in your name. If someone contacts you due to debt owed on a fraudulent account, provide them with your FTC and police reports.
You can also ask for the details used to set up the account and file a formal dispute with them for any balances due.
If you are able to learn more about the identity thief, you can report this information to the police and FTC.
The FTC also provides sample letters to help you request that a debt collector stop collecting debts that you don’t owe.
Get your life back to normal faster by knowing what to do if your identity is stolen
If your personal and financial information happens to be part of a security breach, don't panic. It's frustrating, but if you take the above actions quickly hopefully you can minimize the impact on your finances by knowing how to report identity theft.
It's also important to take precautions even if you have not had your identity stolen. Be sure to store your financial records properly and stay on top of reviewing your bank, credit, and service statements.
If someone steals your identity don't stall on taking action. The sooner you start working on addressing it, the quicker you'll resolve it.