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Posted By:  Ann Neal on 12/07/2017 in Security

6 Important Steps to Take After Identity Theft

6 Important Steps to Take After Identity Theft

According to a report presented by the Identity Theft Resource Center, identity theft has been the number one cause of consumer grievance in the United States for the past 15 years. Identity theft is the premeditated exploitation of a person’s individuality using his/her Social Security Number (SSN) to obtain credit or gain a financial advantage.

The Social Security Number enables the impostor to create a fraudulent account in the victim’s name, allowing him/her to access the latter’s credit cards and bank account details. Consequently, a majority of victims get to know of the fraudulent transactions only after they find a significant amount of debt in their names.  

An estimated 15.4 million U.S residents faced an episode of identity theft in the year 2016 which is a 16 percent rise in the overall fraud incidence. Reporting an identity theft can be an overwhelming experience coupled with trauma and shame. Nevertheless, it is crucial to report the appalling incident for the following reasons.  

  1. It will help you recover your financial losses and declare your innocence in case your identity has been used illegally
  2. It will help law enforcement authorities investigate the crime, find the culprit, and arrest the national crime incident
  3. If the impostor’s motive was to defame your character, reporting the crime will help you restore your name and reputation
  4. It will discourage frauds being committed in your name avoiding any further damage

If you have recently discovered that your identity is being compromised, here are six steps you must follow to report the suspicious occurrences in order to prevent losses in the future.

1. Go through Your Credit Report

If you are wary of an identity theft, reviewing your credit report from the credit bureaus such as Experian, Equifax and TransUnion can help you detect and confirm signs that your identity is being misused.

A credit report offers you information on your current open accounts, closed accounts, the balance in each account, the payment history, and a record of inquiries by all permitted parties that assessed your credit report.

Look for common warning signs namely, accounts opened in your name without your knowledge, unusual credits checks or online purchases, or rejection of loans that you didn’t apply for.

The above-mentioned incidences are the warning signs that your identity has been stolen. It’s now time to report the incident in order to safeguard your identity and minimize the damage.

2. Get in Touch with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The Federal Trade Commission encourages victims of identity fraud to file a complaint as soon as they suspect deceptive transactions or practices.  When you find that someone has access to and is misusing your personal information, notify the Federal Trade Commission using the online documentation form available on their website.

Depending on the nature of the fraud you report, the agency will create a personal recovery plan, enabling you to track the progress of your case. The report filed with FTC will be required when you inform the law enforcement authorities and the credit bureau about the fraud. This document will also help you prevent credit companies from following up with you for collecting debts resulting from fraudulent loans and transactions.

3. File a Police Report

Regardless of whether the law enforcement authorities come to talk to you personally or you are filing an online report, you will want to offer the officials all the necessary information pertaining to the case. It is pertinent that you have the following information and documents handy to avoid any last-minute hassle.

  • Specific dates of the suspicious transactions
  • Details of the fraudulent accounts opened in your name
  • Possible suspects (in case you have an idea who may be responsible for this mess)
  • Credit reports
  • FTC report

Once you have filed an identity theft report with the police, preserve a copy of the report and note down the report number for further investigations. The police report and the FTC identity theft affidavit will be collectively required to recover your losses and notify other parties affected by the fraud.

4. Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a victim of an identity theft can place a fraud alert on his/her credit report with one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion).

Placing a fraud alert on your credit report will notify your potential creditors and lenders of the identity theft, enabling them to verify your identification before extending credit in your name.

You can place an initial, extended, or active duty fraud alert depending on the nature of the fraud and your requirement.

Initial fraud alert stays for 90 days and is available if you feel you are at a risk of becoming an identity theft victim. In this case, creditors take extra precautions to confirm your identity.

Extended fraud alert stays for seven years and is available if you are a verified victim of identity theft. In this case, you are entitled to receive two free credit reports from the credit bureaus in the first 12 months. Moreover, your name is taken off the pre-screened card/credit offer list.

Active duty fraud alert is for members in military service, offering similar benefits and restrictions as other fraud alerts; however, its duration is one year.

5. Contact the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Number (SSN) is a nine-digit unique number issued to every U.S. resident (permanent or temporary), making it the national identification number for that citizen. Financial institutions require the SSN to set up bank accounts, issue credit cards, and process loans. Moreover, the SSN is also used in the taxation process.

Consequently, the SSN is frequently used by impostors to obtain false lines of credits, procure your medical or insurance benefits, or file fraudulent tax returns.

Contact the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service to report about your SSN being misused. Moreover, you can apply for a replacement card in case your name continues to appear in unknown fake transactions.

6. Inform the Institutions Affected by the Fraud

Now that you have notified all the relevant authorities, it is crucial to inform the credit card companies, banks, loan services, mobile service provider, and other companies where a fraudulent transaction has been recorded.

For instance, if your digital wallet has been raided, your mobile phone accounts are possibly being targeted by a hacker. If that is the case, you must report the issue to your mobile service provider and the digital wallet company.

Similarly, if you come across a fraudulent change of your residential address, inform the Postal Inspection Service about the same.

An identity theft can result in a huge financial loss and can permanently damage one’s credit history. If you spot any unusual transactions or activities in your financial statements, use the above-mentioned steps to stop the identity theft and arrest the damage caused thereby.

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Ann Neal

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Member since 12/04/2017

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