8 Steps To Take If Your Identity Is Stolen
Identity theft is a very stressful, troubling event in anyone’s life. The ambiguity of the crime and the number of unknowns involved can make it seem like an insurmountable feat to deal with. However, there are several steps that can and should be taken in the event that your identity is stolen. Using these measures will aid you in minimizing the adverse effects of your stolen identity.
Step One: File a Police Report
The first thing you should do when your identity has been stolen is file a report with your local police department. An investigation will be opened on your case. The police report will also help you legitimize your claims when calling your bank, lenders, and/or credit bureaus to report the theft. When filing the report, bring with you any documentation and/or evidence you have of the crime. You should also request a copy of the police report to have when dealing with the credit bureaus.
Nevada Identity Theft Program
In addition to getting a copy of the police report, you can also apply for a Nevada Identity Theft Card. This program provides a secured ID card to victims of identity theft. It is essentially further verification that the theft occurred, which can be useful when reporting it to creditors. It can also protect you from unnecessary detention and suspicion in criminal investigation, if your identification is used in the commission of a crime.
Step Two: Notify Credit Bureau
The next action you should take is contacting the credit bureaus. You only need to call one of the three credit bureaus, i.e., Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. You can ask them to put a fraud alert onto your credit reports to help stop anyone from opening more accounts in your name. The agency you call will report the fraud alert to the other two.
Step Three: Notify the Bank
Contact your bank to alert them of the identity fraud. Confirm that there aren’t any accounts opened under your name that you don’t recognize. If financial fraud has occurred, i.e., someone has used your existing credit/debit cards without authorization, contact your bank immediately to have the charges blocked.
Step Four: Freeze Your Credit
Putting a freeze on your credit is an optional step but should be considered if your identity is stolen. It prevents the release of your credit report to anyone without your direct authorization. You will have to give explicit consent to any checks on your credit. If you are a victim of identity theft and have a filed police report, you can request a security freeze from each credit bureau for free.
A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze will not prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. The downsides are a nominal fee for the freeze, as well as having to plan ahead for times you do need a credit check, such as when you buy a car.
To place a freeze on your report, you will need to contact Equifax (1-800-349-9960), Experian (1-888-397-3742) and TransUnion (1-888-909-8872), the nationwide reporting companies. Be sure to freeze all three for maximum protection. There is also a smaller credit reporting agency, Innovis (1-800-540-2505), that you should consider freezing as well.
To complete a credit freeze, if you do not have proof that you are a victim of identity theft, there is typically a fee varying between $3-10, depending on your location. In Nevada, the fee to freeze your credit is $10 per bureau (unless you are 65+ years old at Experian and TransUnion). The fee to temporarily thaw is also $10 per bureau (unless you’re 65+ at TransUnion). The fee to permanently thaw is $10 at Equifax and Experian, but there is no fee at TransUnion.
Step Five: Check Your Credit Reports
When you place a fraud alert on your credit reports, you will automatically get free copies of these reports. Check them closely to ensure there are no new accounts that you did not open. If there are, contact the companies or lenders where these accounts have been created and notify them of the identity theft. Continue to check your reports periodically over the following year to ensure no new theft is occurring.
Step Six: Notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
You can go to the FTC’s website and file an ID Theft Complaint. This will provide further backup to the police report when trying to dispute charges or accounts that you didn’t enact. This may also help the FTC identify if your incident is related to larger, nation-wide rings of identity theft.
Step Seven: Notify Utility and Phone Companies
An additional protection you can take is to contact these providers. Check with them to see if any unauthorized, new accounts have been created in your name. Utility companies typically do not notify you if a new account is created, so you should double check on your own to make sure your identity has not been used for this.
Step Eight: Obtain a New Driver’s License
If your license has been used fraudulently, you will want to implement the two following steps as well. Contact your local DMV office and file an Identity Theft Complaint Form. Secondly, request a new driver’s license. This is different than a duplicate; a duplicate will have the same number and will not invalidate the stolen ID. The replacement will have a new driver’s license number.
The above steps will aid you in dealing with the occurrence of identity theft. The following tips can help you better protect your identity and prevent theft/fraud.
Opt-out of pre-approvals/screenings for credit cards and insurance offers
For more information on this topic, refer to our earlier blog post.
Change your passwords frequently
Have strong, unique passwords
Do not use the same password for everything
Utilize online banking to frequently monitor the activity of your accounts
Check your mail regularly
Shred all documents with personal/financial information before throwing them away
Consider filing your taxes early– as soon as you have the tax info you need before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Note that the IRS will reach out to you via letter if there are any issues. They will not call or email you. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
In summation, even when following the above tips, identity theft is not 100% preventable. It can and does happen with great frequency. These guidelines provide you with the available options to deal with your case of identity theft. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. And finally, as we always say, “If you think you might need an attorney, you probably do.” Contact us to set up a complimentary consultation.
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