Want to lower your risk of falling prey to identity theft? Read Part I, “Are You Safe From Identity Theft?”, to discover tips for keeping your personal and financial information secure.
In today’s rapidly evolving technological world, there are many ways for your personal and financial information to be exposed — and identity thieves have many ways to profit if they obtain your Social Security number. Some of the most common fraudulent activities associated with identity theft are the misuse of existing credit cards, bank accounts and personal information.
But it doesn’t stop there: identity thieves may also try to file a tax return under your Social Security number, apply for credit cards or even be bold enough to access your investment accounts.
It is certainly overwhelming to read all of the published data regarding cases of identity theft, but few of these resources offer advice for what you can do if your identity has been compromised. Although a full recovery from identity theft is never guaranteed, recovering from identity theft is possible.
Have a plan in place, take action immediately and start with these six steps:
1. Contact the companies where you know fraud has occurred:
Reach out to each company’s fraud department. Explain that you believe someone stole your identity.
Submit a request asking them to close or freeze your accounts. This will prevent identity thieves from adding new charges to your accounts.
Finally, change the login information for each of your accounts, including all passwords and PIN numbers.
2. Contact one of the three credit agencies listed below to request your credit report immediately.
If you already ordered your free credit report for the year, you may purchase an extra report for an additional fee (be sure to contact each agency for a breakdown of the cost):
— Equifax (888-766-0008)
— Experian (888-397-3742)
— TransUnion (800-680-7289)
Once you’ve requested your report, ask the agency to put a fraud alert on your credit information regarding your compromised identity (click here to learn more).
3. Next, report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
You can file your report by completing the FTC’s online complaint form. It’s important to provide as many details as possible, so be sure to take note of any transactions you don’t recognize when reviewing your credit report and notify the FTC. You can also call 877-438-4338 to file your report with the FTC directly.
4. File a report with your local police department.
Visit the FTC’s website to get a list of the documents you’ll need to submit to the police, as well as a guide for creating your complete Identity Theft Report.
5. Notify the IRS
If your tax return was rejected due to a compromised Social Security number, you’ll need to notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by completing a Form 14039, or an Identity Theft Affidavit. In addition to completing this form electronically and providing the necessary identification, you will also need to file a paper version with your tax forms.
6. Check with your investment advisor, bank or broker-dealer to see what additional protections can be placed on your investment and savings accounts.
Depending on your situation, there are other steps you can take to recover your information and alleviate the impact of identity theft. Beyond the steps outlined above, the FTC provides helpful education for theft victims, including immediate access to resources for reporting the crime to authorities.1
Having your identity compromised can be scary and overwhelming. But the faster you can react to the event, the better your chances of stopping the imposters from doing further damage.