What To Do If Your Identity Has Been Stolen: 5 Crucial Steps

  • October 2, 2017
  • By: Greenpath Financial Wellness

If something seems amiss—strange collections calls, bills you don’t recognize, a sudden drop in your credit score—you may be a victim of identity theft.

Warning signs of identity theft include:

  • unexplained accounts or debts
  • fraudulent information on your credit report
  • missing bills
  • being denied credit for no reason

If you see one or more of these signs, it’s important to act quickly.

Identity theft is a serious crime. Sometimes, victims can resolve the issue quickly with minimal damage to their personal finances and well-being. Other times, it can be a time-consuming, expensive process that has serious impact on your life. That’s why it is so important to take precautions to avoid becoming a victim.

Of course, this is not always possible. So what do you do if you think your identity has been stolen?

Steps To Take If Your Identity Has Been Stolen

1 – Place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit reports, and check your credit reports regularly.

Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below or visit their websites (you only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert on all three).

2 – Close any accounts that you believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of everything you send and a record of every conversation.

3 – File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

You can do this on their website https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ or by calling the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.  Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.

4 – File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

Call and ask them if you need to file the report in person or if you can do it over the phone or on the internet.  When you file your report, bring or attach a copy of your FTC ID Theft Complaint form and any supporting documentation. Ask the officer to attach or incorporate the ID Theft Complaint into their police report.

5 – For fraudulent tax activity, notify the IRS.

If someone filed a tax return using your social security number, notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)  immediately. According to the IRS, victims or potential victims of identity theft can complete Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit to mark their account to identify any questionable activity. 

Specialized assistance from the IRS is also available at 800-908-4490.

Preventing Future Identity Theft

There are precautions you can take to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft now and in the future. Make sure to protect your Social Security Number and only give it out when absolutely necessary — like for tax reporting or applying for a loan. You should not give out your personal information over the phone or through the internet unless you have initiated the contact and can verify the source.

When it comes to online security, make sure you are following best practices for shopping safely online, are wary of scammers, and use intricate passwords. Paper copies of your personal documents should be securely stored or shredded if you no longer need them. 

It is also recommended that you periodically check your credit report to make sure your information is correct and that no one has opened an account in your name.