It’s a warm September night, and your family is out visiting friends. While you’re away, a black-clad figure darts onto your lawn, avoiding the headlights of passing cars. The burglar uses a crowbar to pry open an unlocked window, and slips inside. Within minutes, the thief has stuffed a bag full of electronics, jewelry and other valuable items. Suddenly, he happens upon your desk drawer full of important documents. Bank records, social security cards, passports, birth certificates and other items are neatly filed away with tabbed labels. Suddenly, this petty thief has become a different kind of criminal – an identity thief.
One in every 10 US consumers has already been a victim of identity theft, according to statistics published in 2009. What’s even more surprising, is that from 9-18% of people victimized by identity theft don’t discover that their identity has been stolen for over four years.
Stolen Identity? What to Do Immediately
Once you figure out that your identity has been compromised or stolen, you need to take action as soon as possible. Here are some things that you should do immediately, to minimize damage.
Cancel Your Cards.
This may seem like common sense, but some people aren’t even aware of the customer service number to call to cancel their credit/debit cards. For debit cards, you should call the bank at which you have an account. If it’s an online bank (such as Paypal), you can usually cancel your cards by calling the customer service number on their website.
Close Your Accounts
Even if you aren’t fully aware of how much your identity has been compromised, it’s still highly recommended that you close all accounts associated with your name. Once you have done research about fraudulent activities done in your name, you may have to close accounts that were opened without your knowledge.
Put a “Fraud Alert” On Your Credit Reports
By placing a fraud alert on your credit reports with all three credit bureaus, you can prevent additional damage to your credit score. When an inquiry is made on your credit report (possibly by the person who has stolen your identity), the fraud alert may prevent them from being able to open any additional accounts in your name. Here are the numbers for all three credit bureaus:
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
You should also obtain a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus. This can give you a better understanding of some of the financial activities an identity thief has done in your name. You may also find inaccurate information that has been changed and/or modified – it’s important that you get this information removed immediately.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission
It’s highly recommended that you contact the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to file a formal complaint. This provides important information that allows your case to be investigated by law enforcement officials. Here is the phone number for the FTC’s identity theft hotline:
- FTC: 1-877-438-4338
Contact the Police
Filing a report with the police can actually be one of the more difficult actions that you take in protecting your identity. First, contact the local police in your area and ask to file an in-person report. If they say that they aren’t required to take police reports for identity theft (which is the case in some states), you can contact your state’s Attorney General. When you file your report, be sure that you have a copy of your credit report, documentation about all action that you have taken to protect your identity, as well as a copy of the complaint that you filed with the Federal Trade Commission.
- An Introductory Guide to Identity Theft This post is originally authored at the home security…
- How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft This post is originally authored at the home security…
This post is originally authored at the home security blog at family + home security.