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What to Do When Your Identity is Stolen

What to Do When Your Identity is Stolen

You’ve seen the commercials warning you to keep your information safe. You’ve heard horror stories of families facing year-long battles with creditors, banks, and insurance companies. But you never thought identity theft would be something you’d have to worry about. That is, until your credit card was declined when you went to pay for your lunch.

The truth is, identity theft can happen to anyone. If a thief’s intent on stealing your identity, he’ll do whatever he can to get his way. Of course, it’s those who are careless with their information and data who place themselves at the highest risk. If someone really wants to steal your identity, the least you can do is make them work extra hard to do so.

At any rate, if you happen to become a victim of identity theft, all is not lost. You’ll definitely face an uphill battle in the coming months – and possibly years – but there are steps you can take to ensure your name and reputation are cleared. The sooner you take action, the sooner you’ll be able to go back to real life.

Take Immediate Action

If your identity is stolen, wasting time worrying will only exacerbate the problem. Though you may still be dazed and confused after realizing you’ve been victimized, you can at least begin the process of rebuilding your identity by taking the following steps.

Document Everything

From the moment you realize you’re a victim of identity theft, you need to keep a running record of every step you take toward fixing the issue. Keep a log of every call you make, letter or email you send, and form you fill out. Note the date and time each was received or sent out, as well as the content of each instance.

By doing so, you have proof of the moment you realized something was wrong, and also that you are actively trying to fix the situation. You also keep a record of who you’ve contacted and have worked with while trying to solve the problem – in case there is a mixup on the other end.

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Contact Credit Reporting Companies

Once you’re prepared to document every conversation you have regarding your identity from here on out, contact a credit reporting company – Equifax, Experion, or TransUnion – to request that a fraud alert claim be placed on your account. Doing so will flag your account so companies know there is an issue that is currently being dealt with in regard to your credit score.

Request a Credit Report

Although you only need to contact one of the three companies to request a fraud alert claim, you should request a credit report from each of them. Although major damage has already been done, checking your credit report for ID theft will help you pinpoint when the security breach occurred, and will also keep you informed of any further issues with your credit score.

Create Official Reports

Once you have all the information you could possibly get from your credit report, you’ll need to file formal complaints. The first complaint to file is a report to the FTC. In this report, you’ll need to provide as much information as possible regarding the identity theft. Make a copy of this, of course – you’ll be using it immediately.

Next, file a police report at your local station. This will open the door for a formal investigation by law enforcement on your behalf. Together, these documents form a solid identity theft report, which should be sent to any banks, credit card companies, and businesses you work with.

Taking Care of Business

The main purpose of stealing one’s identity is, of course, to use their credit cards and other information to make fraudulent purchases. Once you have your claims in, you’ll need to track down exactly what the thief did with your information, and inform these companies of the issue.

Contact Companies You Work With

Most of us nowadays have multiple bank accounts, credit cards, and other open accounts involving our hard-earned cash. Unfortunately, when someone steals your identity, you’ll have to contact each and every one of these businesses to make sure they know what’s going on.

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When reaching out to these companies, ask to speak with someone in the fraud detection department. Workers in these areas should be able to notice discrepancies between your normal course of action and when you were victimized. Provide these companies with the identity theft report you previously created so they have solid documentation to work with.

Change Your Passwords

You undoubtedly have dozens of online accounts that store bits and pieces of your identity. Whether it’s your social media accounts, bank accounts, or credit card accounts, they all give away something about you. Be sure to change every single one of these passwords.

And make sure the new ones aren’t in any way similar to the previous ones. Your best bet is to make them a convoluted series of characters rather than your favorite TV show or the year your sister was born. Again: Don’t make it easy for thieves to get into your accounts.

Check For New Accounts

Since the thief has all of your information, there’s nothing stopping him from opening accounts in your name and running up the bill.

Use your credit reports to see if this has happened. If so, contact each business’ fraud department and be ready to provide them with a copy of your identity theft report. Hopefully, if you catch it quickly, they should be able to close out your account with little to no hassle.

Request Records from Businesses

While contacting each company to report the theft of your identity, request that they send you a record of your past activity with them. Some companies may be reluctant to do so. If this occurs, contact the police department where you filed the initial report and give them permission to contact these companies on your behalf. If need be, the police can subpoena this information formally.

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Dealing with Fraudulent Bankruptcy Claims

Thieves may have filed bankruptcy on your behalf, which will present major issues for you moving forward. Check with the US Trustee office, again providing them with all of the information you’ve collected thus far. Unfortunately, if a fraudulent bankruptcy claim has been filed, you may have to hire an experienced attorney to work through the issue on your behalf.

Other Outstanding Issues

There are a lot of other issues that may come up while you fight this seemingly uphill battle, but hopefully you won’t have to deal with the entire gauntlet. Your student loans, medical bills, and utility bills are all at risk of being used as means to nefarious ends. Keep track of them throughout the process of rebuilding your identity.

Reduce Your Future Risk

Once you start to get your life back on track, you’ll want to keep it that way for good. After what you’ve been through, you’ll probably be extra careful moving forward as it is. Make sure you take extra care in the following areas.

Keep Track of Credit Reports

Victims of identity theft have much freer access to their credit reports. Take advantage of this; check your credit score at least a few times a year as time goes on. Even if you do end up having to pay a small fee, it’ll be completely worth it to ensure you don’t have to go through the same nightmare again.

Keep Track of Important Documents

Even though you’ll probably want to shred the pages and pages of documentation regarding your identity theft case, keep them. You’ll likely need to provide them to any company you open accounts with in the future. And, if anything, they’ll serve as a reminder to keep your information safe from now on.

Protect Your Electronics

Make sure you use antivirus and antispyware programs on computers which you use to access important information. Spending a hundred bucks or so upfront will almost certainly save you money and time in the long run. Don’t ever use public Wi-Fi, period. Hackers are quite adept at accessing other users’ information through these networks, no matter how protected you think you are.

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When disposing of electronics, remember: Just because you delete a file doesn’t mean it’s gone. Find a program that will completely erase your hard drive to the point of no return. This may mean hiring an expert to help you out. But, once again: spending a little up front can save you a ton moving forward.

Conclusion

It’s a sad truth that criminals will do whatever they can to make their lives a little easier. Unfortunately, this often involves using technology against us – even technology that could be used to unite us.

If you become a victim of identity theft, you face an uphill battle. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come out of it stronger, more knowledgeable, and more wary than before.

Featured photo credit: Credit Card Fraud / Simon Cunningham / Flickr via farm8.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

Life Insurance: A Secure Way To Protect Your Future.

Life Insurance: A Secure Way To Protect Your Future.

Life is a journey full of ups and downs. No one can actually predict what might happen the next moment; there are times where the happiest moments do not even take a second to turn into the gravest. Planning for your future can help you face such unwelcomed but irrepressible situations with much ease. We all want to make every memorable event of our life more special and to cherish all those moments happily and worry less, you must financially plan your future. But no one has control over life and death. Who would wish to see his family suffer in his absence? Insurance hands over the financial jeopardy of life’s happenings to an insurance company.

Importance of getting a life insurance

No one has control over life and death. Nobody would like to see their family suffering in an absence, and that’s why many people recommend life insurance. A life insurance plan is one of the best ways to secure the future of your family, even against those financial troubles after an untimely demise. These plans are safe and credible, and you could trust them for your family’s better future.

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On the other hand, a life insurance policy is a contract between a company (insurance provider) and policyholder in which the insurance provider ensures to pay a certain amount of money to the nominated beneficiary in case of the policyholder’s death during the term of the agreement. There are different types of insurance plans, and it is important for you to know the benefits of those plans such as a funeral, medical or some life expenses provided they are mentioned in the agreement.

Choosing the right insurance plan

If you’re about to select an insurance plan, you should consider some important factors:

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  • The time at which you start investing in a program and the number of family members you want to get insured. Obviously, a married man with two children has different needs compared to a single one. The number of persons who are dependent on an individual also varies from person to person.
  • The next thing you need to consider is you and your family needs. What are your child’s dream, your retirement plans, for how long would your dependents need financial support, any personal injury, etc. And do not forget those events or situations that will surely demand a huge sum of money.
  • The next thing one must consider is your current income. You should preferably choose a plan which you can afford.

Now you must be having a pretty clear idea of how to choose the best plan for you. Further, you should also compare various plans offered by different companies and numerous sites available online that help will you to compare them.

Differences between life insurance plans

Here’s a short brief of some plan categories you can choose according to your needs:

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  • Term Insurance Plan – You have to pay once, and your nominee gets the paid money under your misfortune demise. It ensures a person for a fixed time. If you survive the policy period, you do not get your premiums back.
  • Whole Life Policy – This plan continues for your lifetime. Under this, the policyholder has to pay regular premiums, until their death.
  • Endowment Policy –  In case the individual dies during the tenure, the beneficiary gets the amount assured. If the person survives the policy tenure, they gets back the premiums paid with other investment returns along with several other benefits.
  • Money Back Policy – In this a portion of the money invested is returned to the investor at regular intervals. If you survive the insurance term you get the entire amount back; else the beneficiary receives the entire sum assured.
  • ULIPs – These are the life insurance plans that offer you future security plus wealth creation options.

Many people do not opt for whole life policy and endowment policy because of the high amount of money you need to pay, while others may prefer to opt for these if they have a high life expectancy. Surely you will find the best one for you.

So what are you waiting for? Plan for your future and live a happier and carefree life today.

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Featured photo credit: aryehsampson.com via aryehsampson.com

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