5 Things to Do if Your Identity is Stolen
In 2018, 14.4 million people were victims of identity theft. Not only can identity theft cost you money, but it can require a significant amount of time and energy spent on your behalf.
If your identity gets stolen, here are the 5 things you can do to minimize the damage.
1. File Reports
You will want to file two reports, one with the Federal Trade Commission and one with your local police department. While the FTC does not have the ability to pursue criminals, law enforcement agencies like the FBI use information collected by the FTC. Then, file a report with your local police department. Filing a report will likely not assist the police in the event your identity was stolen online, but it does protect you. Establishing a paper trail is useful in the future. If your identity is used again, having documentation makes resolving the situation easier. To file a report with the FTC, visit www.identitytheft.gov.
2. Contact Credit Reporting Agencies
Contact one of the three major Credit Reporting Agencies: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. It does not matter which agency you choose because any agency is required to contact the other two and share information. However, it doesn’t hurt to contact all three since that will place them on alert as soon as possible. When you contact them, you’ll want to request a fraud alert. This alert, which lasts one year, will make it more challenging to open new accounts using your information. If you want an added layer of protection, you can also initiate a credit freeze which completely cuts off access to your credit report. To initiate a freeze, contact each credit agency.
3. Review your Credit Reports
After placing the fraud alert but before freezing your credit, ask for copies of your credit report. Looking at all three reports is a good way to make sure you are not missing anything important since each agency’s report can be different. Go over any accounts or transactions you do not recognize. While plenty of websites promise free credit reports, the official site to request them is AnnualCreditReport.com. You should also scan credit card and bank statements for other unauthorized charges
4. Contact the IRS
To make sure you are not a victim of tax-related identity theft, contact the IRS. Someone who has your personal information could file a tax return in your name and receive a fraudulent refund. If your Social Security number was used to file a fraudulent tax return, you should submit form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit.
5. Tighten security on your accounts
Cybersecurity experts recommend changing your passwords often and never using the same passwords or variations of a single password for all sites. Using a password manager is a great way to generate passwords that cannot be easily guessed and save them so that you do not need to remember each one. You can also invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect your web browsing while on public WiFi. If you really want to protect yourself, shred documents with your personal information and invest in a home security system like Scout Alarm. Also delete any personal information, such as addresses, phone numbers, and birthdays off of public profiles on social media and other sites.
Remember, having your identity stolen is a serious security breach, but you can recover and come back stronger than ever.