Identity theft is a serious crime that can have a devastating impact on your financial and personal life. If you suspect your identity has been stolen, it is important to take action immediately.
In this article, we will walk you through the steps you need to take to respond to identity theft. We will also provide additional information and tips to help you protect yourself and recover from this crime.
Step 1: File a police report
If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, the first step is to file a police report. This will document the crime and may be helpful if you need to file an insurance claim or take legal action against the thief.
When you file a police report, be sure to provide as much information as possible about the theft, including the following:
- When and where do you believe your identity was stolen
- What information was stolen, such as your name, Social Security number, and credit card numbers
- Any fraudulent activity that you have noticed, such as unauthorized charges on your credit cards
Step 2: Place a fraud alert on your credit report
A fraud alert is a free service that tells creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before opening new accounts in your name. Contact each of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
You can place a fraud alert online, by phone, or by mail. When you place a fraud alert, provide your name, Social Security number, and date of birth. You will also need to provide a copy of your police report.
A fraud alert will remain on your credit report for 90 days. After 90 days, you can choose to have the fraud alert expire or be extended for an additional seven years.
Step 3: Get a copy of your credit report
Once you have placed a fraud alert on your credit report, you should get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. This will help you to identify any fraudulent activity that has already taken place.
You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Reviewing your credit report, look for any unauthorized accounts or charges. If you find anything suspicious, dispute the charges with the creditor.
Step 4: Dispute any fraudulent transactions
If you find any unauthorized accounts or charges on your credit report, you should dispute the charges with the creditor. To dispute a charge, contact the creditor in writing and explain why you believe the charge is fraudulent.
The creditor will investigate your dispute and may contact you for additional information. If the creditor determines the charge is fraudulent, they will remove it from your credit report.
Step 5: Place a credit freeze on your credit report
A credit freeze is a more serious security measure than a fraud alert. A credit freeze prevents anyone from accessing your credit report without your permission. This means that the thief cannot open new accounts in your name, even if they have your Social Security number.
Contact each of the three major credit bureaus to place a credit freeze. You can place a credit freeze online, by phone, or by mail.
When you place a credit freeze, provide your name, Social Security number, and date of birth. You will also need to provide a copy of your police report.
A credit freeze will remain on your credit report until you remove it. You can remove a credit freeze anytime but must provide a reason.
Step 6: Monitor your credit report for any suspicious activity
Even after taking steps to protect yourself, monitoring your credit report for any suspicious activity is important. You should check your credit report at least once a year, but it is especially important to do so after being a victim of identity theft.
You can check your credit report for free once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you find any unauthorized accounts or charges on your credit report, you should take action immediately to dispute the charges and protect your identity.
Identity theft is a serious crime that can have a devastating impact on your financial and personal life.
However, responding to identity theft quickly and effectively can minimize the damage caused by this crime and get your life back on track.