Identity theft is a crime in which an individual with criminal intent, otherwise known as an identity thief, gains access to another's personal information, such as Social Security or credit card numbers, and uses them for personal gain. With your information that the identity thief obtains, they can do things such as open different accounts, drain your bank account, buy property, and even receive medical care with your health insurance. If you have found yourself a victim of identity theft, here are seven steps you can take to help you recover:
- Call your bank and creditors—Contact your bank and any creditors you may have as soon as you are able. Once you have done this, go ahead and contact one of the three credit bureaus and the other two will be notified. They will be able to help you dispute any fraudulent transactions, accounts, etc. that could have been made by the fraudster.
- Communicate the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—Reporting the identity theft to the FTC is one of the first steps you should take if you find yourself the victim of identity theft. You can do this in to different ways—You can head to IdentityTheft.gov or call 877-438-4338.
- Look into getting a fraud alert or credit freeze—It may be a good idea to get a fraud alert or a credit freeze. A fraud alert can be placed on your credit report and will make it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. A credit freeze is a service that makes it where a lender cannot check your credit, which in turn will help prevent fraudsters from opening new accounts under your name.
- Change any passwords—You should be mindful of your passwords. You will need to change all of your passwords on accounts that were affected by the fraud. When choosing your new password, try to choose one that is not obvious and use letters, numbers and characters to help create a more secure password. It is also important not to use any personal information when creating your passwords.
- Replace identification, if needed—It is important to replace any stolen identification, if applicable to your situation. You can request a replacement Social Security card online, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles to replace your driver's license and contact the United States Department of State to replace a stolen passport.
- Notify telephone and utility companies—If an account was opened in your name, contact the service provider (whether it be a telephone or utility company) and explain to them what happened and request for them to close the accounts.
- Constantly monitor your credit—Even after you have taken the time to dispute any fraudulent charges and have placed fraud alerts on your credit profiles, be sure to continue to constantly monitor all of your credit reports. This can help protect you from future identity theft.