Every year, millions of Americans face identity theft and fall victim to online hacking, debit or credit card skimming, or postal robbery. If you are a victim of identity theft, it is crucial to take swift action to minimize the damage.
According to Zentz & Zentz, ‘identity theft’ happens when a person steals another person’s credentials to use their identity digitally or imitate them for personal gain. It might be difficult and daunting to clear your name and credit report of bogus information. However, you can take advantage of services to help you get your stolen identity back.
Five steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft
The U.S. Federal government takes identity theft seriously. If you are a victim of identity theft, early detection can help you resolve any damage. You should examine your bills and credit report regularly and sign up for notifications from your bank and creditors.
It’s usually best to act sooner rather than later if you notice signs of this crime. If you suspect you’ve been a victim, follow these steps at once:
1. Check all of your financial accounts
The first thing you should do is check all of your accounts for unusual activity. Examine your bank accounts, credit cards, and other accounts to check if nothing was unusual.
After you’ve gone through all of your accounts, make a list of accounts you believe have been hacked. You’ll need to figure out which types of them have been hacked and then take the necessary procedures for each one.
Once you identify the hacked accounts, contact the creditor immediately and ask to close the account. You should close compromised credit cards, bank accounts, and even social media profiles. Make sure to monitor your credit report for any new unauthorized charges.
Be sure to get a letter from the creditor confirming that the account has been closed and is no longer in your name. This way, even if the thief tries to open the account again, it won’t be successful.
2. Put a fraud alert into your credit reports and put a credit freeze in place
Put a fraud alert into your credit reports by calling one of the three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax. A fraud alert means that any time someone tries to get credit in your name, the creditor has to call you to verify that you are trying to open the account.
Moreover, placing a fraud alert on your credit report makes it more difficult for someone trying to steal your identity to register new accounts under your name. They will have to authenticate your identity before they can do so. A fraud warning is live for 90 days by default, but you can extend it if necessary.
Place a credit freeze on your credit reports to prevent a creditor from extending more credit to you. When your credit report is frozen, creditors will not be able to access it. Any new application will automatically get rejected.
A creditor can take steps to complete a lawful request if you desire new credit. If you decide to take the said steps, you’ll need to submit a request to each credit bureau.
3. Keep a record of everything
When battling identity theft, you may repeat the same information to many people and businesses. Nevertheless, you must stay organized to keep track of your progress. This information may be needed in the future if the identity thief is prosecuted or if a lawsuit is filed.
Write down the date of each call you make. Include the name of the person you’re speaking to and their phone numbers. After each call, make a list of questions to ask the individual and recap what was discussed.
Also, take note of the date on which you must take a further step, such as following up with a specific individual about the status of your account.
Send certified mail with a return receipt for all written communications you made. Make sure to keep all original documents. Make a copy of the appropriate identification document because you will most likely need to authenticate your identity several times.
4. Make a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
If you have been a victim of identity theft, the FTC can help. They will work with law enforcement to try and catch the thief. You can make a formal complaint by filling out an online form or calling their Consumer Response Center.
When you file a complaint, be sure to include as much information as possible, such as your contact information, the date of the theft, and a description of what happened.
5. File a police report and get a copy
If you have been the victim of identity theft, it’s crucial to file a police report. This is the best way to start building a case against the thief. Be sure to get a copy of it, as you will need it for future reference.
Provide a copy of the identity theft report, also called an affidavit, to the police department. Present it to businesses to prove that you were not the one who incurred the debt.
The police may accept the report as a courtesy and decide not to pursue the case. However, you will need confirmation that you reported the situation to the police, making this a reasonable step. It will be easier to organize the relevant facts if you prepare the FTC ID Theft Complaint ahead of time. This will help law enforcement officials investigate the crime and track the thief.
If you are a victim of identity theft, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself. Consider putting a credit freeze on your credit reports, record everything, and make a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. Moreover, attorneys can help you through the entire process and ensure that your rights are fully protected. Lawyers can assist you in gaining a better understanding of your legal rights and options.They can help you through every step of the process and ensure that your rights are protected.