Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

20 Little Signs You’ve Found The One 8 Signs of a Man Who Will Never Ever Stop Loving You 8 Things To Remember When Dating Someone With A Guarded Heart 14 Signs You’re Not Drinking Enough Water Which Type of Visa Do You Need to Travel Abroad?

Trending in Money

130 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much 235 Real Ways to Actually Make Money Online 3How to Make Money with a Blog (According to 23 Successful Bloggers) 4This List of 50 Low-cost Hobbies Will Excite You 530 Fun Things To Do With Your Friends Without Spending Much

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 15, 2018

30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

Summertime can be a real strain on your wallet. The sun is out, there are people to see, places to be; it’s no wonder you might be short of funds during these sunny months. Not everything has to cost you an arm and a leg.

Take some time to go through this list of 20 cheap summer activities and make some realistic goals to complete as many as you can.

Video Summary

1. Visit a strawberry festival

Summer is prime time for tasting strawberries. More often than not, an area that grows strawberries will have a strawberry festival. Indulge yourself in strawberry pies, jams, cakes and more!

2. Have a picnic

Take your partner or your family to the local park and enjoy a relaxing picnic. Designate each person to bring one food item of their choice to add to the fun.

3. Camp in your back yard

    The summer heat can sometimes make it hard to sleep. Why not enjoy the heat outside in the yard? Pitch a tent or gaze into the night sky.

    4. Take long walks

    Discover something new where you live. Take the afternoon off from your chores and go for a long walk. You may be surprised by what you discover.

    5. Break a world record

    Breaking a world record doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You could even break one on your lunch hour. Give it a go!

    Advertising

    6. Go on a bike ride

    The number of bike paths on roads in big cities has increased dramatically over the years. Take advantage, and enjoy the summer breeze.

    7. Join a gym class

      The gym is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but why not go with a friend a join a class? Spinning, yoga and step classes are always more fun with friends, and a lot of gyms allow you to pay-as-you-go.

      8. Find a new hobby

      The summer is the perfect time to find a new hobby. Serotonin (our body’s natural “happy” hormone) is produced by the sunshine and will be at a yearly high, which is great for when we want to tackle something new.

      9. Join a sports team

      Not all sports teams are competitive and require huge amounts of your time. Join in the fun with like-minded people, get fit, stay healthy and make some friends along the way.

      10. Make a slip ‘n slide

        Gather your friends, some plastic sheeting, a hose, washing up liquid if desired, and make a huge slip ‘n slide just like these guys. Granted, yours won’t be as big, but you get the idea… it’s fun!

        11. Make a treasure hunt for your kids

        Today’s digital world sees our children more often than not playing inside than outside. Why not create a sense of adventure by making a treasure hunt? Only rule? It has to be outside.

        Advertising

        12. Visit a free festival

        Towns and cities are awash with free festivals, with themes from film to science. Scout your local area and discover something new.

        13. Visit the zoo

          Let’s face it: we love animals. While browsing news websites and social media networks you’re bound to come across a few pictures of cats. Take a trip to your local zoo for a better experience.

          14. Take a road trip

          Enjoy the open road with a few friends and take a road trip somewhere–anywhere. Just go out and enjoy the sunshine!

          15. Play ultimate frisbee in the park

            Frisbee is always great fun down the park, but why not turn it into more of a competitive sport by playing ultimate frisbee?

            16. Make your own ice cream

            Ice cream is a very versatile dessert. Make a sandwich, enjoy a cone, or simply just enjoy a bowl full. Better yet, making your own ice cream allows you to create any flavor you want.

            17. Invite your neighbors over for a BBQ

            Advertising

              When was the last time you invited your neighbors over? Do you even know them? Now’s your chance. Just ask each person to bring a food item so costs don’t mount up for you.

              18. Get a summer job

              For many students, summer is the time for relaxation and fun. But who said earning money and being productive isn’t fun? You only get out what you put into a situation.

              19. Attend a charity event

              Attending a charity event is a great way to raise funds and awareness for a cause, meet new people, and generally have a good time. Search for your local charity event today.

              20. Visit a national park

              National parks are a great way to explore nature and learn something new. You could even volunteer and make a difference in helping restore natural habitats.

              21. Visit your local comedy club

                Local comedy clubs are extremely underrated. They are cheap to attend and no doubt you’ll have a barrel of laughs.

                22. Make your own hammock

                  Hammocks are very relaxing, are perfect for summer afternoons and are surprisingly easy to make.

                  Advertising

                  23. Read in your new hammock

                  Now you have your very own hammock, the only thing left to do is enjoy it. Grab your favorite book and read to your heart’s content.

                  24. Watch a movie outside

                  Movies are great. Relaxing outside in the evening is great. Put them together and you’ve got a perfect combination. In D.C, Maryland and Virginia this summer, for example, you can enjoy a huge number of movies outside.

                  25. Take a hike

                    Hikes are a great way to keep fit and see more of Mother Nature. There are countless trails available for you to explore. Why not try some this summer?

                    26. Learn how to fly a kite

                    As a child, you probably had a kite and haven’t touched it since. Why not dust it off and attempt to fly it? It’s tricky, but well worth the challenge.

                    27. Work out at the park

                    American cities are full of parks with ample space for a work out session. No doubt you’ll be happier to work out in the sun rather than a crowded gym.

                    28. Take your dog to the beach

                      One of the many joys of owning a dog is taking him or her for long walks during the summertime. This joy is enhanced when visiting the beach, for both you and your dog.

                      29. Make a summer smoothie

                      Healthy, delicious and perfect for the summer. Not only that, there are countless recipes ready for you to try.

                      30. Attend a free yoga session at the beach

                      No experience needed and all skill levels are welcome. Take yourself and a buddy down to the beach and try some yoga. You’ve got nothing to lose!

                      Read Next