Identity theft is frustrating, shocking and scary — and it can happen to anyone. Even if you’re extremely careful with your personal information, you can fall victim to data breaches, card skimmers, hackers and more. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and do nothing. Here’s what to do if your identity is stolen, plus some tips to prevent identity theft.
Talk to Your Bank
The first thing you should do if your identity is stolen is call the banks or businesses where you hold accounts that have fraudulent charges to 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 to keep the scammers from making additional fraudulent charges.
Change Your Sensitive Info
Next, change your personal information, including 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 (FTC) and to get an identity theft recovery plan tailored to your specific situation. Your recovery plan will detail what steps you need to take based on the type of identity theft, like how to handle fraud on your utility accounts, an apartment rented 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 affected accounts that you’re a victim, and it guarantees you certain rights.
Investigate Your Credit Report
If your identity has been stolen, get in touch with one or all of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax) to initiate an initial fraud alert and a credit freeze, if needed. An initial fraud alert is free and requires a business to verify your identity before it issues credit. The initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for a minimum of 90 days and can be renewed after 90 days. A freeze on your credit restricts access to your credit report, which makes it difficult for thieves to open new accounts with your personal information.
If you believe your identity has been stolen, you also need to review your credit report. You can get a credit report from each of the three bureaus. Once you have your report, check it thoroughly and 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 notices to you 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.
Prevent Identity Theft
The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to take steps to prevent it before it happens.
Going forward, keep a close eye on your accounts. Look for charges or withdrawals you didn’t make, unusual balances or anything else that seems amiss. Checking your credit report monthly will help you find out if someone is opening new accounts with your information. Likewise, bills or letters you weren’t expecting are signs someone might be using your personal information.
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 from a business or service provider and didn’t, contact the company and verify the information on file.
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 of identity theft, ask your local Farm Bureau agent about adding Identity Services and Fraud Expense Coverage to your Farm Bureau insurance policy. With this coverage, experienced fraud specialists will work on your behalf to help resolve the situation if your identity gets stolen.