So, your identity was stolen. Now what?
First, take a deep breath. Try not to panic. It’s a frustrating and scary situation but you are not alone. It happens to millions of people each year. According a study by Javelin Strategy and Research, 6.15 percent of consumers fell victim to ID theft last year in the United States alone—2 million more than in 2015.
Thankfully, you have plenty of resources to help you along your road to recovery. It’s a long one, but by staying positive and taking advantage of the tools at your disposal, you’ll be back on your feet in no time. Here are five things to do immediately if your ID has been stolen.
Step 1: Change Your Passwords
This is no small task, to be sure, but one of the most important steps to preventing further damage. Start with financial accounts and work your way down to social media and email. A password manager makes this process much easier, so if don’t already have one, do yourself a favor and get on that train!
Step 2: Contact Your Banks and Credit Card Companies
Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, you have 60 days to report unauthorized transactions to your bank, but you’ll want to take care of this ASAP. If you report a lost or stolen ATM card within two days, the EFTA limits your liability to $50, so time is of the essence. This is also why it’s a good idea to check your balance every day and keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.
Most credit card companies have a zero-liability policy, protecting consumers from fraudulent charges. Contact them immediately to freeze cards that may have been compromised. Visit the FTC’s website to see credit freeze FAQs.
Step 3: Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report
By placing a fraud alert, you prevent cybercriminals from opening accounts in your name. Here is the contact information for the three major credit reporting agencies:
- Equifax Fraud Department – 1-800-525-6285
- Experian Fraud Department – 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion Fraud Department – 1-800-680-7289
And Wikipedia has a list of worldwide credit bureaus here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_bureau
If there have been accounts opened in your name, close them immediately and dispute any charges.
Step 4: Contact the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission has an entire website dedicated towards reporting ID theft and getting a recovery plan: https://www.identitytheft.gov/
Step 5: Notify Other Institutions
It’s possible that your identity could be used to open utility service accounts like cable or electricity. And in the case of tax ID theft, the crook may attempt to file a fraudulent tax return. Placing fraud alerts and credit freezes will help eliminate some of these issues, but you may still need to contact insurance and utility companies to alert them to the fact that your ID has been compromised.
You may also file a police report. This is optional but it certainly can’t hurt. In order to file a police report with local law enforcement, the FTC recommends to visit a local police office with copies of your FTC ID Theft Report, a government-issued ID with photo, proof of your address, and any proof you have of theft.