What is the 1st step in dealing with identity theft?


According to the 2021 Identity Fraud Study from research and advisory firm Javelin, last year, around 14.4 million people were victims of identity fraud. Millions of people are always at risk of identity theft every year. Identity theft includes common types of fraud such as online hacking, credit or debit card skimming, and stealing of email. Nearly a quarter of identity stolen victims had unreimbursed personal expenses related to the fraud, and the median loss was $375 among cases reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information to open new financial accounts, file tax returns, or even make fraudulent medical claims. Here are some steps you can consider when found that your identity is stolen: 

Immediately file a report with the Federal Trade Commission 

Federal Trade Commission piles up the information regarding identity theft cases. This information will be used by law enforcement agencies such as the FBI will help them to track down perpetrators. For filing a report to FTC, visit www.identitytheft.gov. After they go through your complaint, you will receive a recovery plan and even prefilled letters and forms that can be used to file police reports and dispute fraudulent charges.

Go to the police 

After you get the complied report from the FTC, the next step is to visit your local police department to file a report. Filing a police report will protect you from further damages resulting from the stolen identity. When you visit the police, just make sure the report lists all accounts affected by the fraud. You should provide as much documented information as possible, along with your Identity Theft Report. Just make sure to get a copy for your records. Don’t forget to save the phone number of your police investigator for future reference.      

Inform about your theft to the IRS and your identity theft insurance

There may also need to inform you about your identity theft and two other entities, depending on your situation. First, you should notify the IRS if your Social Security number was used to file an income tax return. You can do this by submitting a Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit, explains Neal Stern, a CPA member of the American Institute of CPAs’ Financial Literacy Commission. Secondly, you need to contact your identity theft insurance provider, if you have one. Some companies, such as LifeLock and IdentityForce sell identity theft protection services that include insurance coverage.

Contact the credit reporting agencies to put a fraud alert

Contact three major credit bureaus Experian, Equifax and TransUnion immediately and request a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. A fraud can out a negative impact on your credit report, so you need to put a fraud alert in your account which will stay on your credit report for a year. This will notify any creditor, lender, or institution that conducts a credit check on your report of the fact that your identity may be compromised. The alert will prompt the lenders to take extra efforts to verify the identity of the person opening the account. Requesting a fraud alert is free. You can contact any one of the three credit bureaus and request a fraud alert, the one will pass on the information to the other two agencies and the fraud alert will be put on all three of your credit files. 

Put a security freeze on your credit report 

When you get to know that your identity has been stolen, just place a security freeze on your credit report. This will prohibit the credit bureaus from releasing any information in your credit report to anyone without your approval. When the creditors, banks, and other financial institutions can’t access your credit file, this could prove an extra layer of protection by preventing any new credit or loan approval in your name without your authorization. 

Gather all documents opened using your personal information 

Ask the creditors or banks for copies of any applications or any other data and records related to transactions or accounts that have been done using your personal information to identify the identity theft. You have the right to get these details from the creditors only after showing your proof of your identity, a police report, and an FTC Identity Theft Report.

Collect information from debt collectors 

You have the right to collect any information about debt taken in your name from the debt collectors for identifying the identity theft. 

Secure your accounts with strong passwords

Many people don’t change their passwords and this is even worse when people use the same passwords for all websites or accounts. Using a strong password that cannot be easily guessed is a way to ensure that you are safe. Put different passwords for different websites and accounts and keep changing them from time to time. Always use an upper case, lower case character, numbers, and a special character in your password. 

Review your credit reports on a regular basis 

When you are a victim of credit card fraud or stolen identity, it is important to keep monitoring your credit reports once a year to check for errors and rectify them. 

Review your credit card and bank statements regularly

It is important to keep your eyes open when you go through your credit card and bank statements. Identity thieves may start with charges or withdrawals as small as $1 to test the waters. So, carefully review each transaction and if you see any problem or suspicious activity, request to close the card or account immediately.