Identity theft can happen to anyone. Now, with so much information being stored online, thieves are developing more sophisticated ways to steal personal information. When a person’s identity is stolen it can be devastating, confusing, and scary all at the same time. However, there are steps that can be taken to lessen the blow of identity theft, and to protect yourself from further financial damage. Additionally there are things that can be done to prevent identity theft in the first place.
What To Do AFTER Your Identity has Been Stolen?
Here are a few steps to take immediately after finding out that identity has been stolen:
1. Contacting Everyone Who Deals With Your Finances and Credit
This is the first step that a person should take as soon as they find out their personal information has been compromised. Here are a few places that most people contact:
- Credit Bureaus– All three of the major credit bureaus have fraud alert departments that can add security to credit accounts. This can prevent thieves from opening up new accounts with stolen information, and may take away any liability for fraudulent account activity.
- Credit Card Companies/Loan Lenders- It is important to contact any credit card company or loan lender about stolen identity as soon as you figure it out. Most financial lenders have fraud departments, and can do everything from closing an account to setting up alerts.
- Banks- It is important to contact any bank that business is done with- it can prevent even more damage. It may be reassuring to know that most reputable banks put in a lot of effort in security measures and are often prepared for these types of situations.
- Insurance Companies- Contacting insurance lenders can help prevent any claims that a thief may try to make, additionally it can protect even more personal information.
2. Check Your Credit Report
A credit report has all of the information about any financial activity that exists for a single person. If your identity is stolen it is a very good idea to monitor your credit reports, from all three major credit bureaus. This will give a person a good idea of how long the thief has had their information and to what extent.
3. File a Police Report
The bottom line is that identity theft is a very serious crime and should be treated as such. So the next step is to report stolen identity to the local police. This provides the victim with records (in case they need to prove the crime), it may even lead to finding the culprit, and protect others from becoming victims.
4. Close Old Accounts and Open New Ones
Most financial institutions have this set up fairly easily, and can close and open a brand new account if an old one has been compromised. For those who need to continue to use their accounts – this is a great way to go about that.
5. Increase Account Security
This step may be taken automatically by financial lenders when a customer calls them about identity theft. They will often add more login and security steps to access an account. For those who want to keep their old accounts this may be a good option.
Once these steps are taken, an individual has done almost everything they can do, to protect themselves from further victimization after identity theft.
Recovering From a Stolen Identity
Recovering from identity theft can take some time and requires some work. Here are the ways that a person can recover from identity theft;
- Replacing lost or stolen information.
- Consider a credit freeze- this essentially pauses any new or current credit activity.
- Diligently monitor credit reports yourself.
- Consider a credit monitoring service- These companies will do the important work of monitoring credit for you, and alert you right away about any new activity.
How to Protect Your Self from Identity Theft in the Future
There are many ways to go about protecting yourself from identity theft and for other financial emergencies. Taking the following precautions now could save your time, hassle, stress and money in the future:
- Precautions In Person
- Do not carry unnecessary personal information with you, such as a Social Security card.
- Collect mail right away, if leaving on a trip then place a hold on mail.
- Shred all documents that have personal information.
- Store important personal information in a safe place.
- Precautions Online
- Use trusted hardware and a secure Wi-Fi network when online.
- Use websites that offer the protection of encrypted data, when putting any personal information in online.
- Have a secure email and be aware of email phishing scams.
- Use secure passwords, and change them often.
- Precautions Over the Phone
- If a financial company contacts you- hang up and call them from an official authorized number.
- Never give out important personal information over the phone before knowing about the authenticity of the call and caller.
- Avoid making important financial calls in public.
If your identity is stolen it is important to take a few steps immediately after. These steps involve essentially getting everything/everyone financial on the same page. Taking these steps can prevent further damage to your credit, your financial standing, and may even help track down the culprit. Once those steps are taken a person can slowly begin to recover from identity theft and prevent it from happening in future.