What To Do About Identity Theft If You Suspect You’re a Victim
Linda Collins - May 25, 2019
Is someone using your name to gain access to credit? Perhaps there’s a car in your name that you didn’t buy, or a utility account at a property you don’t own. Identity theft can spell financial disaster for many people, and even worse, if someone commits a crime in your name, causing you to suffer more damaging consequences.
So, how does someone steal your identity? It usually starts with a data breach.
Data breaches have become an increasingly common problem in the digital world because personal information and data is more comfortable to access, primarily if secure encryption and other reasonable safeguards haven’t aren’t being used. In 2018, there were numerous hacks into consumer records, such as at Macy’s, Exactis, and Ticketfly. Millions of people’s names, emails, phone numbers, home addresses, and more were exposed. In 2019, there have already been several more large-scale breaches, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Advent Health, and Fortnite.
If your information has been stolen, it may have been sold on the dark web, which means someone could be using your identity right now. Many people find out they’re victims of identity theft when they run a background check on themselves, or pull a free credit report. The information contained in those reports may be able to reveal financial records or even addresses with your name that you don’t recognize.
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If you find evidence that you may be the victim of identity theft, you can take the following steps to report fraudulent activity and begin the process of recovering your finances and credit score with financial institutions.
Change All Passwords
The first thing you need to do is change all of your current passwords for any online accounts you have. Do not use passwords you’ve used in the past, and make sure the new ones are strong: random numbers, letters, and symbols, lower- and uppercase letters, long strings of characters, etc.
Check Your Reports
Run a background check report on yourself and check your credit reports. If someone else using your identity created any fraudulent accounts, you’re likely to find them here.
Contact Your Bank
If you think that your bank account information has been compromised, you should contact your bank to notify them. As a drastic step, you may even need to shut down your existing account and open a new one.
Request a Credit Freeze
Credit reporting agencies (CRAs) can put a freeze or hold on all new credit requests for up to 90 days. Doing so can stop an identity thief in their tracks if they try to apply for credit in your name, or create any new fraudulent charges.
Report Your Identity Theft
Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report any verifiable instances of identity theft. The FTC may not look into your case personally, but it has a helpful website with steps you will typically need to take to report the theft. Note that you will likely be asked to provide proof of your own identity and address, as well as your evidence of the fraudulent activity. Once you’ve reported the fraud, you should receive a recovery plan and an identity theft report from the FTC, which you can share with the appropriate parties listed below.
Once you have your identity theft report, you’ll want to send copies to creditors. Your identity theft report can help you prove fraud, and the information used by the identity thief shouldn’t be on reports to CRAs or credit bureaus.
Contact Credit Reporting Agencies
You’ll also need to send a copy of your identity theft report to the three major CRAs: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These agencies should remove the fraudulent accounts, but keep an eye on your credit reports for fraud alerts on your credit.
Having your identity stolen can feel violating, and recovering from it can be a lengthy process. Make sure you follow the outlined steps above and keep a close eye on your financial accounts to reduce the chances of it happening again.
Browse the CheckPeople blog for more ideas about how to use people search engines more effectively in your long-last family investigations, as well as other searches.