How To Handle Identity Theft

According to a recent Javelin Strategy & Research study, in 2022, more than 15 million people lost $20 billion due to identity theft. These numbers are significant, but the numbers are decreasing compared to previous years’ studies. That can only mean that consumers are becoming more vigilant in protecting themselves against such financial crimes. However, stalkers and suspects who carry out such crimes are always looking for new ways to steal your identity. So, this article reminds you of that and implores due diligence should you ever become a victim. It will also help guard you against such crimes.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identify theft results from someone you may or may not know using your personally identifiable information (PII) or financial information without your knowledge or permission. Identity theft can be damaging to anyone who falls victim, and it can take weeks, months, or years to restore your identity and fix your credit.

Identity theft can happen in a variety of ways. Scammers can:

  • Steal your wallet or purse to get access to personal data like your ID, credit cards, or debit cards
  • Go through your trash to get sensitive information like bank statements, bank account numbers, and tax documents
  • Steal information from your bank card by installing skimmers at ATM machines, cash registers, and gas pumps
  • Gather information from your phone when you use public Wi-Fi
  • Use “phishing” techniques to get personal information from you through fraudulent emails, text messages, or phone calls
  • Lurk through social media accounts to steal an individual’s identity

How To Know if Your Identity Was Stolen

People who steal someone else’s identity are very cautious about how they go about stealing your information. They don’t make a loud noise; in most cases, you may not even realize there’s a problem for weeks. But here are some of the ways to know if your identity has been stolen.

  • Withdrawals from your bank account that you don’t recall making
  • Credit card charges that don’t look familiar to you
  • Bills or other important mail stops coming to your address
  • You receive bills for services or products you did not purchase
  • You receive calls from debt collectors for bills you did not make
  • You find unidentified accounts on your credit report
  • Your social security was used to get a job or a tax refund

What To Do if Your Identity Gets Stolen

When you realize you are the victim of identity theft, you want to take action immediately. Do not wait. If these steps can be taken on the same day, do them. You also want to make sure you document everything you do.

1. Call your bank immediately

Contact your bank and let them know you are the victim of fraud. They will connect you with their fraud department. You’ll also want to call any other banks or companies from which the victim made purchases. The banks and companies will have questions for you and may even suspect you of being a criminal trying to hijack someone’s account. But be patient and go through the appropriate processes with them.

2. Contact the three credit bureaus

Contact all three credit bureaus to make them aware you are the victim of identity theft:

P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Phone: 800-525-6285

P.O. Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013-0949
Phone: 888-397-3742

P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834
Phone: 800-680-7289

Once the fraud alert has been placed on your credit report, businesses will have to take more stringent steps to verify the identity of anyone who applies for credit in your name. Make sure you request letters from the agencies confirming the actions they’ve taken on your behalf.

3. Create an Identity Theft Affidavit

Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create an Identity Theft Affidavit. Their website will help you recover from identity theft. After you provide the pertinent information by responding to the questions on the website, you’ll get an Identity Theft Affidavit and a recovery plan to help you reclaim your identity.

4. Call the local police department

Once you’ve created your Identify Theft Affidavit, you can take it to your local police department and report the crime. It would also be good to take a government-issued photo identification and proof of address with you.

5. Create an Identity Theft Report

With the police report and identity theft Affidavit, you now have an Identity Theft Report. Use this report with your creditors and other important companies so they will know you are not responsible for any bills you didn’t create.

6. Contact your employer’s payroll office

Amidst all of this, make sure your employer’s payroll office knows your direct deposits will need to be redirected. You may need to create a new account and have your funds reallocated or explore other options for receiving your pay.

7. Freeze your credit

This extra layer of protection allows the credit bureaus to deny anyone who requests access to your credit.

How To Stay Protected From Identity Theft

Secure and update your online accounts. Use multifactor authentication (MFA) to secure your online accounts and for protecting PII. MFA requires an additional layer of verification when accessing sensitive data like bank accounts, making it harder for anyone to access it.

Report and replace identification cards. Important identification cards like your driver’s license and social security card should be reported stolen or replaced. You can easily apply for a new social security card through an online portal. Request a new driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles. If your passport has been stolen, report that to the U.S. Department of State.

Monitor your credit reports regularly. Make sure to monitor your credit reports regularly at all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. This will help keep you aware of suspicious behavior that does not reflect your actions.

Make sure any new accounts reported on your credit are closed. Keep an eye out for signs that suggest suspicious behavior even outside of your credit reports. This could include emails congratulating you on a new account you opened or a new credit card. Contact the business immediately to take action.

Make new creditors and debt collectors aware. Make sure debt collectors know you are not responsible for debt you did not create. Make sure they know you’re the victim of identity theft. The FTC has a sample letter on its website to use with creditors.

The Bottom Line

Identity theft can happen to anyone. If you ever become a victim, understand that the situation will not disappear. You will need to take certain steps to make it go away. In the meantime, stay vigilant by taking the steps needed to be always aware of your financial circumstances.

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