When an identity thief steals and uses your personal information for financial or personal gain, it can feel violating, devastating and confusing. You can recover, but you must be patient and meticulous.
The first thing you should do is contact any affected entity. For example, if an identity thief hacked into your bank account, contact your bank immediately. Government agencies should also be notified. If a thief has your Social Security number, you should notify the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.
In order to investigate a case, many organizations will require you to file a police report and an identity theft affidavit. The affidavit can be found at the Federal Trade Commission’s website, and it only takes a few minutes to fill out. To file a police report, simply head to your local police station with your affidavit in hand and explain the situation.
The second step is to protect your credit. Order and review your credit reports looking for information you do not recognize. If you see fraudulent activity, you should file a dispute with the credit bureaus. If you believe a thief is opening credit in your name, you might want to consider a fraud alert or credit freeze.
A fraud alert is a red flag on your credit file. If someone applies for a loan in your name and a lender pulls your file, the lender will be notified of the fraud alert. A credit freeze actually prevents any lender from accessing your file at all. Both types of protection can help keep thieves from opening new lines of credit in your name, but they come with downsides. A fraud alert does not prevent a lender from approving a credit application, and a credit freeze prevents all credit approvals—even if you’re the one applying. Read more about fraud alerts and credit freezes.
Finally, it’s important to continue to periodically review your credit reports and other accounts containing personal information. Once identity thieves have your personal information, they have it forever. They can continue to commit fraud in your name and come up with new ways to use your personal information. You could see the impact even years after the initial theft occurred. Because of the persistent monitoring required to stay protected, subscribing for an identity theft monitoring service may be a safer and easier option. Read more about identity theft
1. Javelin Strategy & Research. “A New Identity Fraud Victim Every Two Seconds in 2013 According to Latest Javelin Strategy & Research Study.” February 2014 Press Release.