Stolen Identity: What to Do if You’re the Victim of Identity Theft

Identity theft is happening right now. In 2020, the FTC received 4.7 million reports of fraud. The most common category of fraud was identity theft.

A stolen identity can deplete your bank accounts and leave you open to criminal charges. You need to respond with prompt and thorough measures.

What should you do to prevent identity theft? What should your first steps be after your identity gets stolen? How can you recover from your theft?

Answer these questions and you can respond to identity theft in little time. Here is your quick guide.

Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone else uses your personal information without your consent. It often occurs without the victim knowing about it.

A thief can steal your name, address, and credit card number. They can charge things to your account or open up new accounts in your name.

Never give your personal information to anyone you don’t know. If someone calls you on the phone and asks you for details, you should hang up. Your bank would never call you.

In a phishing scam, a thief will send you a message that seems legitimate. They will then steal your information for illicit purposes. Learn how to recognize phishing scams and avoid them whenever possible.

Keep your personal documents safe. Buy a safe and store your financial records in it. If you need a document mailed to you, have it get hand-delivered.

When you need to throw a document away, black out the parts that have your information. Then put it into a shredder and distribute the pieces in several trash bins.

You should also keep your online information safe. Create a strong password of at least one dozen characters for each of your accounts. Add multi-factor authentication to each one as well.

You can find out that your identity was stolen by tracking your bills. Look at what you’ve been charged for. If you notice unusual charges, your identity may have been stolen.

What to Do First

If your identity gets stolen, do not panic. Even if your bank account has not been compromised, you should contact your bank. A thief may open an account in your name or take money from your account.

Then call the companies that the thief went to. Get in touch with their fraud departments and ask them to freeze your accounts.

If you have a new account opened in your name, you should close the account. Change the logins and passwords for all of your accounts, including your electronic ones.

Contact one of the credit reporting agencies and ask to put a fraud alert on yourself. A business must verify your real identity before it can give you credit in your name. You should also get a credit report.

Contact the FTC right afterward. You can do so online or through a toll-free number. An identity theft report serves as proof to debt collectors and businesses that theft occurred.

A report to the FTC is not a report to law enforcement. If you would like, you can go to the police with your FTC report and other documents. Get a copy of the police report as further corroboration of your theft.

Law enforcement may contact you because the thief used your name when they got arrested. File a report about the theft and get clarity on what happened. Hand over copies of your fingerprints and proof of an alibi.

Know Your Rights

You have many rights after your identity gets stolen. Your fraud alert expires after one year, but you can renew it. You can also place a seven-year alert so you don’t have to make annual renewals.

You can contact credit bureaus to remove fake information from your credit report. You need an FTC report in order to do this. You can dispute inaccurate information as well.

You can stop a debt collector from contacting you. All you need to do is send them a letter. You can demand information about a supposed debt you owe.

You do not have to pay any debt on a fraudulent account. If you report a lost credit or debit card as soon as possible, you do not have to pay excessive amounts.

Some states offer you additional rights. Read your state’s consumer protection laws to see what you can do.

Identity Theft Recovery

Many companies offer services to help you recover from identity fraud. They will write letters on your behalf to debt collectors. They will examine documents you need to review for approval.

You can purchase identity theft insurance. It can cover the out-of-pocket expenses of reclaiming your identity, as well as wages you lost.

You can hire a consumer protection lawyer who can represent you in court. The Justice for All Act lets you attend hearings and get restitution from the thief.

Some people have their identities stolen from thieves living abroad. This makes it hard to track them down. In many cases of theft, the thieves are never caught.

This can make identity theft disorientating. Give yourself the time you need to process the events. Talk to someone about the emotions you are feeling.

Get suggestions from your lawyer and a financial advisor on what you can do. Keep an eye on your bank account and line of credit.

Reclaim Your Stolen Identity

A stolen identity can disrupt your life. Stop a theft before it starts.

Do not give out your personal information to strangers, even if they seem legitimate. Destroy documents with your details on them. Create long passwords for your accounts.

Contact your bank, credit agency, and the FTC after a theft. You have the right to remove inaccurate information from your credit report.

Hire a company to help you recover. Help with the prosecution of your theft and take time for your emotions.

Forge forward with your finances. Follow our coverage for more financial guides.

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