In a world where boundaries of privacy are pushed left and right every day and personal data is never safe, ID thefts have become an increasingly frequent problem. Unfortunately, getting your personal data robbed by a bunch of click-happy hackers from across the globe means that your sensitive information can easily be used against you. On the plus side, there are a few things you can do to prevent negative consequences even if your credit card winds up in the wrong hands. If you want to stay on the safe side of data privacy and financial safety, here’s what you should do if somebody manages to steal your ID.
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1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports
Once you’ve made sure your credit card has been stolen, contact your credit reporting agency's fraud alert department and instruct them to put a 90-day alert on your credit report. That way, your creditors and lenders will immediately be notified to take steps to verify your ID using your name, address, social security number, and other personal information before they proceed to extend credit. In a majority of ID theft cases, you’ll be entitled to no-cost fraud protection and you wouldn’t be held financially responsible for the charges thieves may have incurred through your account.
To put a fraud alert on your credit report, it’s enough for you to contact only one credit agency (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and its officials will automatically forward the information to the remaining two credit reporting authorities. You can also obtain a free credit card report copy for review purposes and place a security freeze on your credit reports to stay on the safe side of your finances.
2. Contact immediately affected institutions
Once you’ve ascertained your credit card, checkbook, or debit card has been stolen, you should report the theft to the issuer of the document. In some ID theft cases, it may be a smart move to have the accounts temporarily locked or closed. Also, you can keep track of the items you have in the wallet on an encrypted online file storage site.
3. File reports to FTC and police right away
In case your ID has been stolen, immediately file an Identity Theft Affidavit to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or by means of mail, phone, or TDD. Once you’ve filed the report, FTC will inform you about the steps you should take to prevent being targeted by fraudulent activity. Also, don’t forget to report the ID theft to the local law enforcement office and obtain a copy of the police report or the report number. The FTC and police reports will be merged to create the Identity Theft Report which will serve as the grounds for investigation of potentially fraudulent activities involving your personal information.
4. Put a lid on your Social Security number
In case you suspect your social security number has been stolen, you should contact the Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service right away. This is an important preventive measure even if your suspicions are unfounded and no financial fraud has been committed yet as thieves may be planning to run off with your tax refund or use your ID to obtain employment or healthcare services.
5. Hire an attorney to fight in your corner
In the event of ID theft, you should hire a team of experienced consumer fraud lawyers who will fight in your corner and take care of all legal aspects of the investigation. On top of that, you can sign up for credit monitoring service and keep checking your credit reports periodically over the course of the next year to take care of fraudulent activities and make sure no new ones occur. In case fraudulent charges have been incurred in your name in the meantime, you should consult your credit card agency and see if the charges can be reversed.
6. Open new credit cards and bank account
Once you’ve closed your credit card and bank account, you should contact financial institutions and see whether and when you can open new accounts in their place. As tedious as the process may be, it’s still essential if you’re to regain control over your personal information and finances. On top of that, you should take steps to avoid becoming a victim of further fraudulent activities that may compromise your personal data security and financial safety.
Approximately 15 million identity thefts occur in the U.S. each year, with financial losses totaling more than USD 50 billion. The figures may not be pretty, but they’re true, and loud: in the world we live in, anyone can become the victim of ID theft, which is why it’s of utmost importance to know what to do should ill-meaning minds decide to misuse your private data. Be smart: use the tips above in case your ID gets stolen and you’ll always be safe from financial harm.