What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
Your wallet wasn’t stolen, but there are charges on your credit card you don’t recognize. After disputing the charges with your credit card issuer and receiving a new credit card with a different number, you move on. Since you were able to easily resolve the fraudulent credit card charges, you dismiss the next appearance of unrecognizable charges as just a result of yet another data breach. Your credit card issuer again removes the charges and issues you a new credit card. But, it doesn’t stop. You notice there are new accounts on your credit report. You get the sense that something else is going on here.
When someone steals your identity, it harms your credit which can affect your financial health. To limit your liability and regain control of your financial life, take quick action to stop others from using your identity for their gain. Here’s what you should do.
Inform your financial institution right away! Then tell the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about it by filing an official report. You’ll need the report for added protection later. It also makes it easier to prove to businesses that your identity was stolen. The report is your key to correcting the havoc caused by scammers. The FTC encourages victims to file a report at the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website. You’ll need to provide information related to your identity theft such as:
- what information was misused, e.g., credit card accounts, government identification, utility accounts; and
- how the scammers used it, e.g., details about the account and the fraudulent activity.
Enter as much information as you can. Don’t skip the details. They are asking for a reason. When you file a report with the FTC, they will use this information to create a customized identity theft recovery plan specific to your situation.
Set a Fraud Alert Immediately
You’ll want to activate a fraud alert with the major credit bureaus. This helps protect your credit report from further damage. If someone tries to apply for credit using your personal information, creditors must try to verify it’s really you which may cause a slight delay in credit decisions. Don’t worry, it’s worth it, and it won’t hurt your credit score.
If you’re a Hughes Federal Credit Union member, you can take advantage of Falcon Fraud Monitoring’s Text Fraud Alerts, a service that monitors signature-based debit and credit card transactions for fraudulent activity and contacts you if there is suspicious activity.
Since you don’t know the extent of the information gathered by the scammers, you’ll want to take this extra layer of protection. Change your passwords, personal identification numbers and security questions for all of your accounts. This may sound like heavy work, but it’s worth it to help protect your credit and other financial accounts. Use a password manager to organize and keep track of your new data. It will also help you avoid the temptation to assign each account the same password, PIN and security questions.
Extend and Block
If you didn’t file a report with the FTC, you might have a tough time with this one. You’ll need the FTC identity theft report to:
- Extend the fraud alert for up to seven years
- Dispute credit accounts and convince creditors to remove the fraudulent activity from your account
- Force creditors and debt collectors to stop contacting you for payment on fraudulent accounts or charges
Similar to the initial fraud alert, filing an extended fraud alert with one credit bureau will automatically alert the other bureaus.
Monitor Your Credit Report
Whether your identity is stolen or not, a regular review of your credit report is a good idea. Regular monitoring of your credit report is the best way to detect potential issues early. Look for inaccuracies that might otherwise go unnoticed:
- Your name, address, and employer;
- New accounts or current accounts where balances have suddenly increased without your knowledge; and
- Hard credit report inquiries you did not authorize
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com and request your credit report from each of the major credit bureaus at least once every 12 months for free. Be sure to review each report since the same fraudulent activity won’t necessarily appear in all three reports.
Your credit health is a key factor in your financial future. Protecting your credit is about more than low-interest rates and great terms on your next mortgage or auto loan. Accurate credit reports can influence where you live, whether you secure your dream job, and your ability to access certain utility or cell phone services without extra fees and costs. Recovery after identity theft takes time but is critical for your financial well-being. Be patient and stay diligent.
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