Identity theft occurs when someone manages to steal your personal information such as your social security card, your driver’s license, or account number or passwords. This person will then use this information to apply for new credit cards, make charges on your current account or steal funds from your bank accounts.
You may not realize you have been a victim of identity theft until you find unauthorized charges to accounts or a collection agency contacts you about a delinquent bill that you were not aware of. By this time, a thief could have stolen a significant amount of money and created a monumental headache for you to clean up.
If you realize that you have indeed been the victim of identity theft, there are steps that you should take to minimize the damage to your financial records and avoid additional problems in the future. As you follow through the following steps, make sure to document all phone conversations and correspondence regarding the reporting of your identity theft.
Inspect and Protect your Credit Report
A victim or potential victim of identity theft can place a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies with a call to any one of them. For potential identity theft victims, an initial alert can be placed. This alert is good for 90 days and will notify the companies that you suspect someone has access to your personal information. An extended alert is placed once you have been a victim of identity theft and includes a theft report. This alert will stay on your credit report for seven years.
Close Accounts that may be Fraudulent
Call any companies that you may suspect have been contacted to let them know you have been a victim of identity theft. Close the accounts in question and open new accounts with different passwords and PIN’s.
Contact the Police Department
Identity theft is a crime just like any other type of robbery. A police report should be filed right away, and you should obtain a copy of that report to provide to the companies that you will be contacting about fraudulent activity.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission
By filing a complaint with the FTC, you allow authorities across the nation to protect other potential victims of identity theft. The FTC can notify other government agencies about the illegal activity which will expand the investigation.