by Editorial Staff
(Jun. 25, 2021) — Nobody wants to be a victim of identity theft. You don’t want to wake up one day with no money in your bank account, having thousands of dollars of new loans under your name, or worse, investigated by the police for fraudulent activities or scams perpetrated in your name. In addition, it may take a long time to prove your innocence and clear your name and credit after an identity theft incident.
Fortunately, you’re not alone. The police and other government agencies are there to assist you with your seemingly insurmountable problem. You can even seek the services of an identity crime attorney to assist you with whatever legal matters you may need to recover your identity or to help authorities in the investigation of your case.
Below are crucial steps to immediately take if you’ve been an identity theft victim:
- Alert Your Banks and Other Financial Institutions
One of the initial actions you need to do is call your bank and credit card companies to inform them that you’ve fallen prey to identity theft. This step is crucial to prevent criminals from withdrawing money from your account, using your credit card, or applying for loans or lines of credit under your name.
Most of the time, people catch fraud, particularly the illegal use of their credit cards, when they regularly check their bills for discrepancies. Remember that unpaid credit card bills and bank loans will affect your credit score, so, you’ll have to act fast to prevent criminals from further damaging your credit standing.
- If Applicable, Call Your Identity Theft Insurance Provider
If you have insurance, you should call your provider immediately. They’ll be of great help because they can guide you through the process of reporting to authorities and credit agencies. Identity theft insurance providers will have an easy-to-follow checklist for their customers, so gaining back your identity from scammers will be a lot easier and more stress-free.
Also, most insurance companies cover legal fees if you need to file charges or need the services of identity theft lawyers. If you don’t have this type of insurance, maybe you should consider getting one for your protection and that of your family.
- Report To the Federal Trade Commission
You should report illegal use of your identity to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by calling their hotline or submitting a form to their website. You must provide the agency as much information as possible regarding the theft.
The FTC has a recovery plan that lists what you need to do, plus they’ll also give you an Identity Theft Report, which will act as evidence that your identity has indeed been stolen or compromised. You need to print or have a digital copy of the report in case the police and other creditors or institutions require it from you.
- Contact Your Local Police
You don’t know the extent of information stolen from you. So, it would be prudent to report the incident to the local police immediately. This step will protect you and flag criminals if they use your data to commit scams, fraud, and other crimes.
- Apply For Credit Freeze or Fraud Alert
Once you’ve scrutinized your credit report and seen the extent of the damage caused by identity theft, you ought to consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report or maybe even freezing your credit.
The free fraud alert will require creditors to verify identity for new account applications. This alert usually lasts for 90 days but can be extended to seven years once you’ve provided proof that you’re indeed a victim of identity theft.
A credit freeze is another level of protection. This action will restrict a lender’s access to your credit reports, which could also prevent another person from opening a new account in your name. To enforce a credit freeze, you’ll have to contact each credit bureau and make a request.
- Notify Other Companies and Agencies
If you’re employed, you also need to contact your HR to report the issue. The HR department in big companies usually assists their employees in the proper steps to mitigate the damage of identity theft.
You could inform the Office of the Inspector General if you think that somebody fraudulently used your Social Security number. Also, you could request online for a Social Security card replacement if you lost your card.
Here are some other agencies or companies to notify in case you suspect fraudulent activities committed under your name:
- Department of Motor Vehicles – if your driver’s license was stolen or compromised.
- State Department – for immediate replacement of stolen passport.
- Telephone companies and utility providers – to prevent thieves from using your name to open new accounts.
With the rising cases of identity theft, everyone should be vigilant in protecting their data. In case you’ve discovered that you may be a victim of such a crime, you should act immediately and consult with legal experts to avoid further damages to your credit score and personal life.