6 Things to Do If Your Identity Was Stolen
October 3, 2017
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Finding out that someone has committed fraud in your name can be one of the most stressful moments of your life. You feel violated and anxious, not knowing what else the person might do in your name.
In some instances, it may be a quick fix. But in others, it can take months or even years to recover fully. To make sure you don’t suffer longer than you need to, do these six things as soon as you find out that your identity has been stolen.
1. Report the Fraud
To help make the process of working with creditors go smoothly, you’ll want to create an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission. Additionally, some creditors might also require that you file a police report, especially if you know the identity thief.
You can file an Identity Theft Report online or by phone at 1-877-438-4338. To file a police report, you typically need to contact your local police department and fill it out on paper.
2. Put Your Credit on Hold
You have two options when it comes to preventing the identity thief from creating new accounts in your name. You can either place a fraud alert on your credit reports or freeze them.
Extended Fraud Alert
An extended fraud alert is free to request and stays on your credit report for seven years. When you or someone else applies for credit in your name, the creditor will review your credit report. If they see the alert, they’ll usually call the number you specify in your alert to verify that you were the one who applied.
Additionally, the alert requires that the credit reporting companies remove your name from pre-screened marketing offers for five years. You also get two free credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus within 12 months. This makes it so that you can check to see if your identity has been compromised again.
This option is better if you plan to borrow again in the near future.
If you don’t have any plans to borrow again in the future, a credit freeze might be a better choice. Instead of triggering a phone call from the creditor, a credit freeze doesn’t even allow the creditor to view your credit report.
In many states, a credit freeze is free if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. If you do want to borrow again in the future, however, you might need to pay a fee to temporarily or permanently lift the freeze.
3. Review Your Credit Reports
Even if you only discovered one instance of identity theft, there could be more. Get a copy of your credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com and review each one carefully. Note any accounts you don’t recognize and call the creditor listed to get some more information on the account.
4. Cancel Your Account
If the fraud happened on an existing account rather than through the opening of a new one, call the creditor to cancel the account and replace it with a new one.
If it’s a credit card, this means that your current card is no longer active and you’ll get a new card with a new number in the mail. The bank will transfer the balance from the old account will be transferred to the new one.
Doing this ensures that the identity thief can no longer use the account because it’s closed.
5. Sign Up For a Credit Monitoring Service
There are plenty of free credit monitoring services out there that offer alerts when a new account is created in your name. You can also view your existing accounts to make sure nothing happens without you knowing about it.
You can use CreditSoup to check your current credit score and history.
6. Try to Find Out How it Happened
To prevent identity theft from happening again, take a step back and find out how the fraud happened. For example, if someone gained access to one of your online accounts, it might be because you use the same password on multiple accounts and one was compromised in a data breach.
If someone created a fake credit card in your name, it’s possible that your card information was skimmed at a gas station or ATM.
Whatever the reason, take some time to figure out how your information got into the hands of a fraudster so you can strengthen your defenses.
Speed is Key
Identity thieves act quickly because they don’t know how much time they have before you find out. So, once you learn that someone has stolen your identity, don’t waste any time. As you follow these tips, you’ll be able to not only stop the fraud that’s happening but also help prevent it from happening again in the future.