When your identity is stolen, you may feel like you are in a nightmare. The thief has complete control over your personal information and may use it to commit fraud or other crimes. You may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and mitigate the damage caused by identity theft. By following these steps, you can regain control of your life and protect yourself from future identity theft incidents.
How Should You Respond To The Theft Of Your Identity
If you believe your personal information has been stolen and used to commit fraud, there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself and your finances:
Contact The Businesses and Banks Where You Know Identity Fraud Has Occurred
First, contact the companies or banks where you know the fraudulent activity occurred. Stop any accounts that have been opened without your permission or tampered with. Then, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Contact The Credit Reporting Agencies and Set Fraud Alerts
Next, contact Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, the three major credit reporting agencies, and place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This alerts creditors that they should take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit in your name. As part of the process, you’ll need to provide proof of your identity, such as a copy of your driver’s license.
Request Copies of Your Credit Reports from Each Of The Three Credit Reporting Agencies
You’ll also want to obtain copies of your credit reports from the credit reporting agencies. Review them carefully to look for any suspicious activity, such as accounts you didn’t open or inquiries from companies you don’t recognize. If you find anything questionable, file a dispute with the credit reporting agency.
Freeze Your Credit Report
In some cases, you may also want to place a security freeze on your credit report. This prevents creditors from accessing your credit report entirely, which can stop them from extending new lines of credit in your name. However, it’s important to note that a security freeze can also make it more difficult for you to obtain new lines of credit yourself, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons before taking this step.
Obtain Papers Pertaining to Fraudulent Transactions or Accounts Opened Using Your Personal Information
If you have any documents that show fraudulent transactions or accounts opened in your name, obtain copies of these for your records. This may include a copy of a fraudulent credit card statement or a letter from a debt collector.
Get Information from Debt Collectors
You can also ask debt collectors to stop contacting you about fraudulent debts. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are not allowed to contact you if they know the debt is fraudulent.
Stop Credit Reports from Reporting Damaging Information
When you become the victim of identity theft, one of the first places that thieves will often target is your credit report. By opening new accounts in your name and running up charges on existing accounts, they can quickly do a lot of damage to your credit score and your financial reputation.
That's why it's so important to know how to block the reporting of damaging information in credit reports when your identity is stolen.
You can place a fraud alert by contacting one of the three major credit reporting agencies. You only need to contact one of the agencies, and they will notify the other two on your behalf.
Contact Local Law Enforcement Right Away
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that you file a police report as soon as possible after discovering the theft. This will document the crime and may be helpful if you need to file an insurance claim or take legal action against the thief.
When you contact the police, be sure to have all of the relevant information with you, including any documentation you have of the theft. The FTC has a sample police report that you can use as a guide.
Contact the IRS
You can file a report with the IRS if you believe your Social Security number has been used to commit tax fraud. The IRS has a special unit called the Identity Protection Unit (IPU) that is dedicated to helping victims of identity theft. If you think you've been a victim, you should contact the IPU as soon as possible. They will help you resolve the issue and will work with you to make sure that your tax return is filed correctly.
Notify Your Health Insurance Provider and Medical Care Providers of the Situation
You must also alert your health insurance company and any medical care providers if you believe your health insurance information has been compromised. This will help to ensure that your medical records are not accessed or used fraudulently and that you are not held responsible for any fraudulent charges.
Fix All of Your Accounts
Once you’ve taken these steps, you should also take the time to clean up your online presence. This includes updating your passwords and security questions for all of your online accounts and monitoring your credit reports on a regular basis going forward. By taking these precautions, you can help protect yourself from identity theft in the future.
Now that we looked at how you should respond to the theft of your identity, it is clear that the best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to be proactive. Be aware of the different ways that your information can be stolen and take steps to protect yourself. If you do become a victim of identity theft, don’t panic. There are steps you can take to mitigate the damage and get your life back on track. Stay informed and stay safe.
If you are a business owner and would like to avoid identity theft, you should consider storing all your customer information in a secure client portal.
If you already have a solution for managing interaction with your customers, but have many security sensitive documents and files, consider a Virtual Data Room or VDR. Learn about VDR.
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