In recent years, identity theft has been so rampant, thanks to technological advancement that has allowed criminals to conduct these activities with relative ease. According to the 2020 Identity Fraud Study, there were almost 600,000 identity theft cases, costing the victims 16.9 billion dollars.
Identity theft happens when a criminal acquires access to your personally identifiable information (PPI) and uses it maliciously, such as opening new financial accounts, filing tax returns, making medical claims, and so forth. Not only can this crime cost you lots of money, but it could take a considerable amount of time to resolve.
If you ever happen to be a victim of identity theft, here are steps you can take to stop a criminal from using your identity, as well as recovery actions to help salvage your identity before major damages can occur.
5 Steps to Take if Your Identity is Stolen
1. Ask a fraud alert to be placed on your identity card account
Having a fraud alert in place helps to lets creditors know that there is a security alert on your information. As such, they can conduct extra security checks every time your credit card details are used. By notifying the authorities of the theft, you become eligible for receiving fraud alerts and credit reports for a specified period of time (up to seven years). This helps ensure that your personal information is safe and is not being used to commit crimes without your knowledge.
2. Freeze your credit report with credit bureaus
Freezing your credit card report is a sure way of locking out criminals from using your details for criminal activities. Ideally, it locks your credit card report until you unfreeze it through the phone, in writing, or online. You can unfreeze it when necessary, say when buying a new home and your credit card information needs to be checked. While here, remember you’ll need to contact the three credit bureaus individually. These bureaus are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
3. Contact your local police department
It is crucial that you contact your local police to alert them of a criminal operating in your name. Filing a report can help in several ways:
- It helps support your claim once creditors come asking you to pay for service offered or products bought with your credit cards
- The police can use the information to solve similar cases, especially if the thief is operating locally
- If the thief uses your details to commit more crime, you will be exonerated with the report you filed
Be sure to notify local authorities as soon as you realize you are a victim of identity theft.
4. File a report with the FTC
By reporting to the Federal Trade Commission, you save yourself a lot of trouble down the road. For instance, if you file a report within two business days, you will only be required to pay 50 dollars for any unauthorized use of credit cards and bank accounts. Having an FTC report also eases the process of reaching out to creditors and debt collectors when making a claim of identity theft.
5. Contact your utility provider and other account fraud departments
Since identity thieves can use your information to commit a range of crimes, it is advisable to notify all relevant parties, from utility providers, debt collectors, insurance companies, loan specialists, credit card companies, etc. Even if you haven’t received any suspicious bills, be sure to contact them to safeguard your personal information. Additionally, if you think your details have been used to file fraudulent tax claims, notify the Internal Revenue Authority (IRS) for action to be taken.
Identity theft can have damaging consequences on your personal and financial life. If you happen to be a victim of such a crime, you should be prompt in ensuring a criminal does not use your personal information maliciously.
Related Reading: 7 Tips to Protect Your Personal Identity