If you think that your identity has been stolen, there are several steps that you should take immediately in order to protect your credit and to minimize the potential damage that could be caused by the person who stole your identity.
If you have a problem with a specific account, the first step that you need to take is to contact the financial institution and dispute the fraudulent charges. You should ask that the account be frozen or closed completely.
If your data has been compromised due to a data breach at a company, the company may offer free credit monitoring services for free. Even if you cannot get the service for free, if you have discovered fraudulent activity on your account, signing up for a credit monitoring service is recommended.
Take the time to pull up all of your accounts and scan through your old statements to see if there are other charges that you do not recognize. Make sure to review all of your accounts, even those that are not used frequently.
Look over your credit report for any mystery accounts. Request copies of your report from all of the reporting agencies and make sure there are not any accounts on your report that you do not recognize. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from annualcreditreport.com.
After filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission it is a good idea to also contact your local police department. This is not necessarily so that the police investigate the crime, but rather to create a paper trail to show that you are actively addressing the issue.
Contact the credit bureaus and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your account. The initial fraud alert will last 90 days. This alert will notify any institution that pulls your credit report that your information may be compromised.
Most of the time it is recommended that old accounts be closed and new ones opened in their place in order to avoid further damage. While this is quite tedious, it is necessary.
There are steps that you can take to make yourself less likely to be a victim of identity theft again. These steps include:
- Shredding documents that contain personal information
- Creating strong passwords
- Changing your passwords regularly
- Do not carry your social security card with you
- Keep personal information off of social media sites.