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7 Things to Do Immediately After Your Identity is Stolen

May 11, 2019

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Over 15 million Americans were the victim of identity theft in 2016 alone. What’s worse is that fraud losses totaled $16 billion that year!

You hear the horror stories but never think that it would happen to you. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, you can still end up as the victim of identity theft.

If you notice suspicious activity on any of your accounts, it’s important to act fast. You want to stop the perpetrator in their tracks before they’re able to do more damage.

Do you think you’re the victim of identity theft? Keep reading to learn what you should do next.

1. Call Affected Banks and Creditors

Do you notice a charge on your credit card that you don’t recognize? Or maybe there’s an ATM withdrawal on your bank statement that you don’t recall making.

Don’t panic just yet! Your first step will be to call the affected bank or credit card company for more information. Sometimes purchases will show up under an unfamiliar name on your credit card statement, particularly if you buy things online or if a parent company’s name is used.

The additional information your bank and credit card company gives you may be enough to jog your memory, and help you remember that you did, in fact, make that purchase. However, if it’s still unfamiliar, you may be a victim of identity theft.

While you’re still on the phone, ask them to shut down the account in question.

It’s important to do this first step fast. While credit cards typically have zero-liability policies, ATM withdrawals, debit card transactions, and bank transfers usually have a $50 liability policy if reported within two days. After two days have passed, that number jumps to $500, and that cap disappears after 60 days, so you may be on the hook for all fraudulent activity.

2. Call Other Potentially Affected Businesses

Once you notice fraudulent activity on one account, it’s vital that you check other accounts too. You never know what kind of information the perpetrator managed to collect.

So, look at any additional accounts you have with the bank in question as well as any accounts you have through different banks. You’ll also want to look at all of your credit and debit card statements.

Unfortunately, your banks and credit cards aren’t the only places identity theft may occur. You’ll also want to call the Social Security hotline, your health insurance company, and utility companies. Check the personal information listed on the accounts and look for any suspicious activity.

You may also need to call the IRS as perpetrators sometimes try to collect fraudulent tax returns.

If you're worried that your business will be affected, you may want to find out more about IAM solutions to keep everyone's identity safe.

3. Contact a Credit Reporting Agency

The effects of identity theft go further than stolen money. The perpetrator may have used your information to open a new card and maxed it out, affecting your credit score.

Make sure you call one of the major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax) and request a fraud alert. This will last for one year and will make it harder for someone to open up accounts in your name.

You should also ask them to block fraudulent activity from appearing on your credit report.

4. Look Over Credit Reports

Once you request a fraud alert with one credit reporting agency, they are required to alert the other two on your behalf. And once that fraud alert is on file, you’ll automatically get a free credit report from all three agencies.

When you get these reports, search them for fraudulent activity. This could include accounts that you didn’t open, payments you didn’t make, and unfamiliar personal information or employment history. You’ll also want to request another credit report from each agency at least once over the next year to make sure new fraudulent activity hasn’t taken place.

5. Change Passwords

Do you use the same password for every online account you have? This can make it easier for identity thieves to wreak havoc.

Write a list of all your online accounts and change the password for all of them, even ones that didn’t seem to be affected. The perpetrator may discover these in the future and try to gain access to them.

Make sure your password for each account is unique. Including numbers and special characters can make it harder to crack.

Of course, you still want to ensure you’re picking passwords you can remember. A written list of passwords may seem like a good way to remember them, but this can easily end up in the wrong hands.

6. Get a New License

While doing the above steps, you may have noticed that someone was using your driver’s license number. If this is the case, go to the DMV and request a new number right away.

7. File a Report

Although the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) typically focuses on larger fraud cases, they do keep an eye out for all levels of identity theft. This information helps them uncover patterns and larger rings that can help protect the general population in the future.

So, make sure you fill out the ID theft complaint form on the FTC’s website and print a copy out for your own records. Then, file a report with your local police. The police report and FTC print-out serve as an ID theft report which can help you dispute fraudulent activity.

What to Do After Your Identity is Stolen

Dealing with the aftermath of identity theft can be upsetting, confusing, and stressful. But if you follow the steps above, you can stop the perpetrator in their tracks and get your life back.

Has identity theft caused a strain in your marriage? View our collection of Christian-based relationship videos to help get through this trying time.