It comes as a punch in the gut when you discover that someone has stolen your identity. Do not give in to panic. You can take measures to get control of the situation and eventually recover.
Immediately Make a Report
Image via Flickr by Neil Milne
You usually only know that you are a victim of identity theft after the damage is done, and that is when the shock sets in. You might notice new accounts on your credit report that you didn’t open, or you might see withdrawals and charges on your accounts that you can’t explain. Don’t let the surprise knock you down. As soon as you notice the signs, create an Identity Theft Report.
There are two parts to an identity theft report. Write a report detailing what you know about the theft and submit it to the Federal Trade Commission. You can do this online at ftccomplaintassistant.gov. Print out the report, and this becomes your Identity Theft Affidavit. Bring this with you when you file a report with local law enforcement, and make sure you get a copy of the police report or the number of the police report. These two items together become your Identity Theft Report.
Send a copy of the Identity Theft report to creditors and credit bureaus. It will stop the bleeding, so to speak, by placing an extended fraud alert on your credit report. It will also help to get inaccurate information erased from your credit report and stop companies from collecting debts that you did not incur.
Keep an Eye on Your Accounts
A fraud alert on your credit report makes it difficult for the bad guys to open new accounts in your name, but not impossible. Identity thieves tend to target the same people repeatedly, and this is especially so if they have your most sensitive information, such as your social security number. Always stay alert to what is happening with your finances across the board.
Call your all of your creditors, especially those with whom you have fraudulent accounts. Confirm that they received documents you sent, like your Identity Theft Report. Communicate with them so you do not get slammed with a messy tangle of debt you did not incur, heavy late fees, and outrageous interest rates.
Take Further Steps to Protect Your Identity
Once you’ve waded through the aftermath of having your identity stolen, you have special determination to prevent it from ever happening again. Regularly change your login information for online banking and credit accounts, shred sensitive documents before putting them in the recycling bin, and get a mailbox that you can lock. More information on how to protect yourself is found at lifelock.com.
Some types of identity theft, like data breaches, you can’t do anything to prevent. Fortunately, when a data breach occurs, you will receive a notice from the company that mishandled or misplaced your information. You can ready yourself for possible trouble. Also consider purchasing identity theft protection from a company whose purpose it is to protect you from the pain of dealing with a stolen identity.
When you are the victim of identity theft, you feel violated and frustrated, but you are not helpless. Take immediate, intelligent action to minimize damage and recover as quickly as possible.