Chances are good that you probably know someone or heard a news story about someone getting their identity stolen. In the digital world we all live in, identity theft does occur. If you know what to do in advance you can be prepared if this ever happens to you or someone close to you.
Although having your identity stolen can be stressful, you shouldn't panic. Here are some easy steps you can follow should you encounter identity theft:
1. Call Companies You Know Where Fraud Occurred
The first step is to alert the companies where you know fraud may have occurred. You may need to speak to the fraud department, and you might need to send over some of the documents generated in the steps below to further the process.
2. Place a Fraud Alert with a Major Credit Reporting Agency
Be sure to set up a fraud alert with one of the major credit reporting agencies. You can do this by visiting Experian.com, TransUnion.com, or Equifax.com and following their instructions. It’s also worth noting that you’re entitled to a free credit report every year from these same agencies. If you haven't received your free credit report yet, this would be an opportune time to do so. Please visit annualcreditreport.com for your reports.
3. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
If you think you may have been a victim of identity theft, you should visit IdentityTheft.gov. They’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to report and recover. It will also provide pre-filled forms and letters and track your progress.
4. File a Police Report
Go to your local police department with a government-issued ID with photo and proof of address such as a mortgage statement or rental agreement. You should also present any documents (bills, notices, or letters) that show your identity may have been stolen. Ask for a copy of the report – it proves that your identity was stolen and it also grants you certain rights like free credit reports, extended alerts on credit reports, and stopping collectors from collecting. Click here for more details.
5. Take Preventative Measures
It might be impossible to pinpoint exactly how your identity was stolen, but you can put some further security measures in place going forward. Start with changing your major online passwords and making sure they’re secure. This means using uppercase and lowercase letters and adding symbols and numbers.
You'll want to shred documents with personal information before throwing them away. It’s also a wise idea to make sure your computer antivirus software has been updated. Plus, it’s a good reminder to regularly change your passwords and make them secure.
For additional resources about protecting your identity and fraud protection, click here.