Have you ever known someone who has been the victim of identity theft or credit card fraud? It can be a highly frustrating experience, and it can take a long time to get the situation resolved. All that aside, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to what to do if your identity is stolen. Being the victim of identity theft or credit card fraud is not fun, but here are a few things you can do to start to set things right.
1. Act quickly and close the account that has been hacked or stolen.
If you realize that someone who is not you is using your credit card or charging things, you need to close the account and shut it down ASAP. Get in touch with the financial institution connected to the account immediately and explain that you think the account has been compromised. Tell them which charges are fraudulent and have them lock the account.
2. Check your credit card and bank statements.
You need to check over your credit card and bank statements, even for accounts you seldom use. Make sure that your new arch-nemesis – a.k.a. the identity thief – hasn’t gotten ahold of any of your other accounts. If you spot any fraudulent charges, you need to contact the financial institution as soon as possible and get them to close the account.
3. Set up a fraud alert for your credit report.
A fraud alert will tell any institution that pulls your credit report that your identity may have been stolen or compromised. The fraud alert should prompt the institution seeking your credit report to take extra care to ensure the person who wants a loan or account is who they say they are. (This is a good step for anyone who suspects they’re the victim of identity theft to take.) Setting up a fraud alert means that you can get a free credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus.
4. Set up a credit freeze on your accounts.
A credit freeze will stop the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) from releasing your report to institutions or potential creditors that ask for it. You have to freeze your report at each of the three reporting bureaus. That will prevent an identity thief from applying for new loans or credit cards in your name. (It’s important to protect your credit – your credit has an effect on your home insurance.)
5. Check over your credit report.
You should go over your credit report – you’re looking for strange accounts that you didn’t open, debts that don’t look familiar, and anything incorrect.
6. File a Federal Trade Commission complaint/report.
If you believe your identity has been stolen, you may want to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
7. File a police report.
It’s also very important to file a police report with your local police department. You can give them a copy of the FTC identity theft complaint form to include in their report.
8. Reset your passwords if need be.
You should change all passwords to your accounts. Passwords should be difficult to guess, include numbers and symbols, and be at least eight characters long.
9. Take steps to prevent identity theft.
Going forward, it’s a good idea to take steps to prevent further or future identity theft.
Here are some tips for preventing identity theft…
- Set strong passwords on your accounts.
- Don’t click on links in pop-ups or scam emails.
- Don’t overshare on social media.
- Watch your credit card bills and bank statements.
- Keep your Social Security Number safe.
- Shred documents with personal information on them.
10. Monitor finances for a few months.
You also need to keep an eye on your finances for a few months following the identity theft. Stay vigilant for any signs of identity theft.
So, those are some tips on what to do if you fear that your identity has been stolen. It’s really important to close the accounts and file the appropriate reports. Though identity theft might make you feel panicked, you can recover from it.
Additional Resources for Individuals
How should you respond to the theft of your identity and tips for recovering