There might be things worse than having your identity stolen, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a nightmare. Restoring your financial reputation and getting your life back can be a long process, depending on how much damage was done. If you just had a credit card number stolen, all you’ll likely need to do is call your credit card company to open a fraud investigation and close the account. But if someone is using your personal information to open new accounts, steal your tax refund or Social Security benefits, or buy things in your name, you’ll need to follow these steps to recover.
Call Your Insurance Provider
Do you have identity theft insurance? If you do, call your insurance provider and explain that you believe your identity has been stolen – they’ll walk you through the next steps. They can even call the bank, government agencies, and creditors with you to explain the situation.
If you don’t use any identity security services, that doesn’t mean you don’t have identity theft insurance. Contact your homeowners insurance or talk to your employer. You may have coverage and not realize it.
Freeze Your Credit
The fact is that even after you’ve discovered that your identity has been stolen, thieves can keep opening new accounts as fast as you can shut them down. Call one of the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Transunion, and Equifax – and put a freeze on your credit. This will stop anyone from opening any new credit accounts in your name. If you want to open a new account yourself in the future, you’ll need to call and have the freeze removed.
Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report
If you don’t want to freeze your credit, you can at least put a fraud alert on your credit report. This will let creditors know that your identity has been stolen and that new credit inquiries could be fraudulent in nature. A fraud alert typically lasts a year.
Start Notifying Concerned Parties
Immediately start calling companies that have been the recipient of fraudulent transactions in your name to notify them. You can get fraudulent or compromised accounts shut down. If an identity thief has been posing as you, contact your health insurance provider to make sure they can’t use your health insurance to get care. If your Social Security number has been compromised, contact the IRS and the Social Security Administration (SSA).
File a Police Report
A police report can help you get further when it comes to disputing fraudulent transactions and accounts in your name. It also creates a paper trail if, for example, the person who stole your identity commits a crime and then poses as you to the police. If the identity thief is local, police may be able to actually find them and bring them to justice.
File a Report with the FTC
If someone steals your tax refund, opens new accounts in your name, or makes purchases in your name, you need to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC may be able to give information about your case to the FBI so they can find the perpetrator. They can also give you paperwork that you can use to dispute fraudulent accounts and charges and file a police report.
Secure Your Accounts
Change all your online passwords, especially those for your financial accounts. Use a different password for each one of your online accounts. Make sure your passwords are strong. Turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA) for email and financial accounts, and any other accounts that offer it. You might even consider using an authenticator app for an additional layer of security.
Check Your Credit Report and Financial Statements
Make sure you thoroughly check your credit report for any new inquiries or accounts that you’ll have to dispute. Comb through your bank and credit card statements for fraudulent transactions and dispute them, too. You may end up needing to close your existing accounts and open new ones, but that’s often the only way to lock thieves back out of your accounts.
Getting your identity stolen is never fun. It can be a lot of hassle to dispute fraudulent accounts and charges, file a police report, and call your bank, credit bureaus, and various government agencies to warn them that someone is impersonating you. That’s why it’s a good idea to have identity theft protection before anything occurs. You can get protection against identity theft, help with recovery, and insurance to cover your financial losses.