In the US alone, about 33% of adults have experienced identity theft. By 2019, this number was about 14 million people, which means one person out of 15 has become a victim. As a result, there were about 164 million exposed records, and consumers lost about $1.9 billion to identity theft.
We’re living in an age where everything is convenient, from accessing our bank accounts to ordering pizza at the touch of a button. However, this means that we have shared a lot of our personal information out there. If you are a victim of identity theft, you need to take crucial steps that’ll finally lead to clearing your name.
The process is likely to be tedious, if not overwhelming. However, we’re going to go through a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you through it. With the right resources, you will have your identity back and prevent future risk.
Notify Your Banks and Creditors
As soon as you realize that you’re a victim of identity theft, the first thing you should do is contact your bank and creditors. You’ll find that most credit cards don’t feature liability policies or protection for those affected by identity theft. If you are a victim of credit card fraud, though, you’ll be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act.
For debit cards, ATMs, and electronic transfers from the bank account, you’ll be protected by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. However, you have to be incredibly fast. Once you report a loss or theft of your debit or ATM card, you will be left off the hook for charges made thereafter.
The thing is, you will only have two business days to report unauthorized charges at the maximum loss of $50. If you report between two and 60 days, the liability limit will increase to $500. If you report beyond 60 days, then you’ll be facing unlimited liability.
Essentially, this means that early detection is the most critical part. The longer your identity theft goes unnoticed, the longer the fraudsters will have to damage your credit history and use your personal information in fraudulent ways. In turn, the more you will have to clean up, so report any suspicious activities immediately before it gets out of control.
Protect Your Credit Report
Identity theft and fraud will impact your credit score negatively. It’s essential for you to put a fraud alert on it to prevent any problems. Contact a credit reporting agency of your choice and ask for the fraud alert.
The bureau will place an alert on all your files, and it’ll last for at least one year. An alert will make it hard for the fraudsters to open any new accounts using your names. Businesses will also have to contact you first before they issue any credit.
This is hands-down one of the most crucial steps you should take, and if nothing else, it will give you peace of mind. Once you confirm that you’re a victim of identity theft, you should fill out an Identity Theft Report then request for an extended fraud alert on your credit report. The extended fraud alert lasts for about seven years.
Scrutinize Your Credit Report
After filing for a fraud alert, the credit bureaus will automatically send you free credit reports. It’s vital that you go through every one of them. Check for identity theft by looking for hard inquiries you don’t know about and payment histories you’re unable to account for.
Check for the personal information you don’t recognize, as well as any account you did not open. If you think you’re a victim of identity theft, one of the most significant steps you can take is freezing your credit. Your credit information will be locked down completely, and the process is free, but you need to make a request from all credit bureaus.
You will receive a password or a pin that you can use to, later on, lift off the freeze. It’s vital for you to safely keep this pin or password to avoid problems when you want to unfreeze your credit. A freeze can be temporary or permanent, and only you can decide to unfreeze it.
Report Your Identity Theft
You should go report your identity theft to two places, which are the FTC and the police. When you contact the FTC, offer as much information as possible. They will give you a recovery plan and an Identity Theft Report.
The Identity Theft Report will act as proof to show that your identity has been compromised. You’re required to have a copy of your Identity Theft Report if you’d like to make a report at the police station. You can also print some for your creditors.
Once you have the report in hand, you can head to your local police station to report the crime. It’s essential for you to have a police report because it will help you from any further damages. The police report should include every account that was affected by the identity theft.
This means you need to provide documented details with as much information as you can offer to the police. If you are a victim of identity theft and the problem could be troubling for you, you can consult with best class action law firms. They will give you insight on how to get everything back.
Have Fraudulent Information Scrapped Off Your Report
If you are a victim of identity theft, you need to have all fraudulent information scraped off your records. Contact all credit bureaus and request that they remove the fraudulent information. This is a crucial step to prevent identity theft from ruining your life.
The FTC has a letter template that you can use for your request, which you should send together with your Identity Theft Report and other details about your identity theft. Removing information is vital because you won’t have to pay debts you did not acquire. However, even after all this, it’s still crucial for you to keep checking your credit report in case of any additional fraudulent information.
Replace Stolen Identity
Whatever was stolen, starting from your Social Security Number to your driver’s license and passport, has to be replaced. For your Social Security Number, contact the Inspector General’s Office and for your driver’s license, the Department of Motor Vehicle. For the passport, report to the State Department, then start applying for a new one at the Passport Agency.
What To Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
There you have it! These are the steps you have to take if you are a victim of identity theft. The process may seem long, but you should be good if you take it a step at a time.
If you need more informative posts like this one, please check our blog section.