Identity theft is frustrating, shocking and scary, and it happens in different ways. Data breaches, card skimmers, hackers and more are to blame. Even if you’re extremely careful with your personal info it can still happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and do nothing. Here’s what to do if your identity gets stolen and some tips to protect yourself.
Talk to your bank
The first step when fixing identity theft is to call the banks or businesses where you hold the accounts that have fraudulent charges and report the incident. Let them know which charges aren’t yours, and work with them to get those charges reversed. Ask the companies to either close or freeze your accounts.
Change your sensitive info
Next, change passwords, security questions/answers and PINs associated with the accounts where fraud has occurred. If you use the same information with other unaffected accounts, make changes there too. This will help prevent the same thieves from striking again.
Get an identity theft recovery plan
Visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. Create an account and get an identity theft recovery plan tailored to your specific situation. Your recovery plan will detail steps required for different types of identity theft, like how to handle fraud on your utility accounts, if someone has rented an apartment in your name, or if your child’s identity has been stolen. This report with the FTC also helps you prove to the businesses where you have your accounts that you’re a victim, and it guarantees you certain rights.
Investigate your credit report
Get in touch with one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) to initiate an initial fraud alert or all three to initiate a credit freeze, depending on your situation. An initial fraud alert is free and makes it so a business must verify your identity before it issues credit. The initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for at minimum 90 days and can be renewed after 90 days.
If you believe your identity has been compromised, a freeze on your credit allows you to restrict access to your credit report which makes it difficult for thieves to open new accounts with your personal information. Pull a fresh credit report from the bureaus and check it thoroughly. Dispute any accounts you didn’t open or any erroneous information. Your recovery plan will walk you through these steps.
Contact debt collectors
If debt collectors are calling you or sending you notices in the mail, reach out within 30 days of receipt and report the fraud. Use this sample letter and include a copy of your identity theft report.
Going forward, keep a close eye on your accounts. Search for charges or withdrawals you didn’t make, unusual balances or anything else that seems amiss. Check your credit report monthly. Inspect it for any new accounts that you didn’t open. Look for other signs like missed bills or letters you were expecting. If an account has been compromised, thieves may have changed the address or contact on the account. If you believe you should have received correspondence contact the company and verify the information on file.
Retrace your steps
Consider how the identity theft might have occurred. Did you lose your wallet? Do you think someone scammed you over the phone? Have other people in your area reported problems after visiting a certain business? Depending on your circumstances, you may want to file a police report with local authorities.
Stay Ahead of Thieves
Because identity theft is a rising concern throughout the country, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself. For added protection and to reduce your risk for identity theft with quick detection and rapid response, ask your local Farm Bureau agent about adding our Identity Services and Fraud Expense Coverage to your Farm Bureau homeowners, farm/ranch, and other property or liability insurance policy. With this coverage, you won’t be alone in resolving a situation involving identity theft. If your identity gets stolen, experienced fraud specialists will work on your behalf to help resolve the situation.