What do you do if you are a victim of identity theft (ID)? If you are a victim of identity theft you should take immediate actions to protect yourself from the fraudster(s). Identity theft occurs when someone steals and uses your personal information without your permission, such as your social security number, credit card number, name, and identification information. The below steps will help you figure out what you need to do to recover from identity theft fraud; find resources that can help you fix the situation; and report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Here are some of the signs that someone has stolen your information
- You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
- You don’t get your bills or other mail.
- Merchants refuse your checks.
- Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
- You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
- Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
- Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
- A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
- The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
- You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
Contact the company or companies where the fraud occurred
- Explain that to them that your identity was stolen.
- Ask them to either close the accounts or remove fraudulent charges.
- Change your usernames, passwords, and PIN numbers for your accounts.
- Consider changing your passwords for other accounts that may have also been affected, like your email account, bank accounts, credit card accounts, and other accounts you deem necessary.
Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission
- Visit identitytheft.gov to complete an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The report serves as your official statement regarding the crime. The FTC website also offers information regarding identity theft recover steps.
- Order your credit reports from the 3 nationwide credit reporting companies using the free website annualcreditreport.com. If you have already requested your 3 free reports in the last year, you are still entitled to request additional reports if you have placed a fraud alert. With a fraud alert, companies must take reasonable steps to verify your identity before approving new or additional credit. An initial fraud alert protect you for at least one year, and extended alert for seven years.
Place a fraud alert on your credit report
You need to contact only one of the big 3 consumer reporting companies online or by phone to place a fraud alert. You can also place a free “security free” on your credit report. This prevents others from opening new accounts in your name, until you lift the freeze. The negative side to this is that you won’t be able to apply for credit as easily if you were planning to open a new account or apply for a loan. If you choose to freeze your credit, you must contact each of the credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to freeze your account. If you want to lift the freeze, you will have to do the same thing. There is no charge to lift a freeze.
- Equifax: Call (800) 397-3742 or visit alerts.equifax.com
- Experian: Call (888) 397-3742 or visit Experian.com
- TransUnion: Call (800) 680-7289 or visit fraud.transunion.com
- Other helpful resources provided by the FTC
Protect yourself from identity theft. Keep an eye out for fraud by reading your bank and credit card statements. Be cognizant of all fraud alerts and call the credit card companies. Don’t give out any personal information over the phone unless you know it is a reliable source. Check your credit reports regularly fo any suspicious activity.