If you’ve ever been a victim of identity theft, you know how unsettling it can be. The fact that someone else has the capability to invade your privacy and commit fraud using your name and identification can alter your reality immensely.
It can take money and time that you may not have in order to resolve the issue. If you feel that your identity has been stolen, follow these 7 action steps in order to minimize the fallout.
Although the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t have the jurisdiction to investigate criminal activities, it does compile reports from victims that the FBI can use to track down offenders. File a report with the FTC at www.identitytheft.gov and follow the instructions to make sure your case is more than just a security breach.
File a report with your local police department in order to start a paper trail that could help with future criminal activity. Although the local police are unable to assist you with identity theft overseas, they can help with catching the criminal locally. If a crime is committed using your information, a report can help expedite the case.
In order to keep your good credit report intact, you’ll want to submit a fraud alert to the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This will protect your credit when any institution runs a credit check on your behalf. They will take an extra step to ensure that the person trying to open an account is verified.
Placing a freeze on your credit will prohibit anyone who requests a credit check from receiving one. This adds an extra layer of protection that will cut the offender off from using your credit illegally. A freeze will not negatively affect your credit score and is not considered a cancelation.
One of the most efficient ways to increase security on your accounts is to implement a password manager. 1password is a very intuitive manager that will generate random passwords for your web accounts and auto-fill them accordingly so you won’t need to keep track of them all.
While some password managers are free, the ones that cost a small fee per month are worth the extra expense. Other ways to tighten your security are shredding private documents with important information, keeping your social security card in a safe place rather than on your person, and being smart about which e-mails you click.
Make sure you review your credit reports quarterly to make sure there isn’t any suspicious activity occurring. If you do not recognize an account, report it immediately. You are permitted one free credit report per year for each of the three credit bureaus. The official credit review website is AnnualCreditReport.
Although this final step is a bit of an inconvenience, it’s also the most important one. Canceling old credit cards and accounts and opening new ones gives you a fresh start as well as gives the perpetrator a cold trail. Make sure you eliminate other accounts that might not have been compromised just as a safety precaution.