Someone Has Stolen Your Identity – What Now?
We’ve seen terrifying—and sometimes humorous—movies about identity theft. Someone steals the financial, insurance, or citizenship records of another person and assumes their identity, making purchases in their name and often ruins the victim’s life. You don’t want this to happen to you, and you certainly don’t want it to happen to anyone you love, so you defend your information carefully.
However, even the most careful person
can have their identity stolen. Before you seek legal counsel, you need
to take these 9 steps:
1. Notify your bank and creditors.
If someone has stolen or will steal your money, your bank should know. Tell your bank as soon as possible so they can freeze any future thefts and save your money. Many banks or credit card companies may even recover the money for you.
However, it’s still very important to act fast to make sure no thefts occur. If you have ATM or debit cards, you need to report their loss the moment you realize they’re missing. If you do, your bank or creditor won’t hold you accountable for any purchases made afterward. Don’t wait to cancel your cards and talk to your bank—the thief will try to act as quickly as possible to get your money.
2. Put a fraud alert on your credit reports.
Credit agencies need to know when someone has stolen your identity. Inform credit reforming agencies of your problem, and they’ll take steps to protect your credit and your credit score from the thief’s actions. They’ll stop sending you preapproved credit card and insurance offers, among other things.
3. Check your credit reports.
Many credit reporting agencies send you a report after you file a fraud alert. Even if they don’t, you need to pull your credit report and check it for any fraudulent activity. Possible activity includes:
- New bank or credit accounts you didn’t open
- Hard inquiries in places you didn’t expect them
- Payments or expenses you don’t recognize
- Wages or salary from an employer you never worked for
- Personal information that doesn’t apply to you
After you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you should continue
to check your credit report for over a year. If fraudulent
information appears, make sure you report it. An identity theft
report can remove the fraudulent information.
4. Freeze your credit.
A credit-freeze completely locks down your credit information. It will prevent you from applying for new credit in most cases, but it will protect your finances. Credit reporting agencies can’t send your report to new creditors, preventing the thief from taking out loans in your name.
5. Contact the police.
You should not only contact the police in your city, but contact them in other cities if your identity was stolen there. You need to secure a police report for your case—don’t forget to make sure the report lists all fraudulent accounts. The more information you give the police, the more they can help you. You may have to give them a copy of a government-certified identity theft form to prove you have a problem.
6. Send an ID Theft Report to your creditors.
Make sure your creditors know about your problem as well. Send them a copy of the report from the credit reporting agency, and make sure they have copies of reports from police and government agencies as well.
7. Change all passwords for any account.
Change your banking passwords, your online shopping passwords, and any other passwords attached to monetary accounts. When you change your passwords, make sure they meet the following criteria:
- They’re at least 8 characters long.
- They contain uppercase letter, lowercase letters, numbers, AND symbols in them.
- They don’t form complete words.
- They’re not like your previous passwords.
If the website allows you to add spaces, you should add those too.
Just don’t put them in obvious places, like between complete
8. Get new IDs, including drivers’ licenses and passports.
If someone has stolen your financial information, he or she may have access to other information as well. Replace all forms of identification, including passports, drivers’ licenses, work or school IDs, etc. You don’t want the thief to open new accounts using a photo or online scan of your IDs.
9. Call your utilities company.
An identity thief may also try to open new accounts in your name using a power bill as proof of residence. Tell your utilities company about the problem, and they will prevent any thieves from using your power bills.
Identity theft doesn’t have to ruin your happiness or your livelihood. After you’ve taken these steps, you should hire a lawyer to defend you. You may even call a lawyer first—the lawyer will walk you through all the steps above to make sure you stop fraud in its tracks. Call your lawyer to learn more today!