No one thinks they’re going to have to know what to do if your identity is stolen. Every year, over 9 million Americans have their identities stolen. It’s one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States.
Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information to open new financial accounts. One incidence of identity theft can completely change your life’s financial trajectory. It’s difficult to come back from and even harder to seek justice, in many cases.
If you think your identity may have been stolen, keep reading. We’re breaking down what to do if you think your identity is stolen.
File a Claim With Your Identity Theft Insurance
If you have an insurance plan that protects you from identity theft, the first thing you should do is contact them. Many companies sell protection against identity theft. If you haven’t purchased identity theft insurance yourself, you may have it through your employer or your other insurances.
Call your insurance company or your employer’s human resource department. They can help you determine if you have a policy to help protect you from identity theft and can direct you on what to do next.
Notify All Applicable Companies
Your next call should be to every company where a fraudulent transaction has happened. Let them know that there is a false account under your name.
There are times where there are fraudulent accounts open in your name but your personal information has not been stolen. If you call the companies with fraudulent accounts, they may be able to kick the thief out of the account and save you from a huge financial loss.
But if someone is using your social security number, you should call other companies and agencies proactively. Let the IRS know a thief used your social security number to file tax returns by submitting a 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit.
You should also alert your health insurance company. They can thwart any attempts to get medical treatment with your policy.
File an FTC Report
The FTC can’t pursue criminal charges against the person who stole your identity. But they do put together information about identity theft cases that law enforcement can use to find thieves.
Go to www.identitytheft.gov to file a report with the FTC. They can even give you an idea of what to do to recover your money. They also offer letters and forms that are already filled out to give to the police or dispute fake charges.
Contact Your Local Police
Once you have your prefilled forms from the FTC, you can contact your local law enforcement. You need to file a police report to protect yourself. This is the start of the paper trail that can help you prove that your identity was stolen down the line.
If someone uses your stolen information to do something illegal, documenting the day and time of the theft will protect you.
Local police can’t help you if someone has stolen your personal information online. But if it’s someone local, they can try to track them down.
Alert the Three Major Credit Bureaus
Now it’s time to let the credit bureaus know that there is a fraudulent activity under your name. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are the three major credit bureaus and they have the ability to place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
A fraud alert will stay on your account for a year. It will tell anyone that checks your credit report that the information on the report may be from fraudulent activity because your account is compromised.
This is especially helpful if someone is attempting to open a credit card in your name, for example. The issuing institution will check your credit report, see the fraud alert, and look harder at whoever is trying to open a new account to make sure it’s you.
Freeze Your Credit
If you want more protection against identity theft, you should freeze your credit. This will stop all access to your credit report. The major credit bureaus won’t give your report out when an institution requests it.
In this case, you will have to contact each credit bureau to let them know to freeze your credit.
Tighten Account Security
After you’ve alerted all the necessary bureaus and institutions, it’s time to crack down on your account security. Most people don’t have good security practices when it comes to passwords.
Doing things like using the same passwords for each site your on is an invitation for identity thieves to steal your personal information.
A password manager is a great way to ensure that all of your accounts have separate, secure logins and that you don’t forget them. You can find a free password manager for your accounts.
Practice good security hygiene at home too. Shred your sensitive documents and don’t carry your social security number with you.
Then give all of your credit reports and bank statements a thorough look so you can identify what has been stolen from you financially.
Contact a Lawyer
Lastly, a lawyer who is experienced in identity theft could help you figure out what steps to take to get your money and your life back. Financialjusticenow.com is a great resource to start with to help you find justice for any financial crimes committed against you.
What to Do if Your Identity Is Stolen
Now that you know what to do if your identity is stolen, you can make the right moves if someone hacks into your personal information. Identity theft can financially ruin you, the last thing you want to do is be caught unaware and have no idea what steps to take to get your life back.
For more of the top legal tips, keep reading.