What should I do if I've become a victim of identity theft?
If your wallet has been stolen you should take all the same precautions you would if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. There are a few things you should do right away. The faster you take action, the more you can limit the damage this criminal does to your life and your credit rating.
- The first thing you need to do is report identity theft. Contact your local police and complete an identity theft police report. From there, you can contact a fraud department or agency. They will probably want to see a copy of the identity theft police report you’ve filed. When you complete an identity theft police report, you’re entitled to a 7 year fraud alert, to a credit freeze (in some states), to having fraudulent information blocked from your credit report, and to a copy of any records that are obviously fraudulent in your name. After you have a copy of your completed report, make several photocopies and always keep the original on hand. Unfortunately, as an identity theft victim, you’re going to have to prove that you’ve been victimized. That means you’re probably going to have to send copies of that police report to several businesses and agencies while you go about clearing your name.
- Contact your credit card companies. Hopefully, you get to them before the criminal has racked up huge bills on your account. Notify them that your identity has been compromised and that you would like to block all further transactions on your outstanding credit cards and that you would like them to issue you new cards sent to your home address (Don’t forget to contact companies who issued you credit cards like specialty stores, department stores, or online retailers). Some credit card companies have services that will email you whenever someone tries to get a loan in your name. If your company offers such a service it might be a good idea to sign up for it (depending on the cost). That way you’ll be notified if this criminal tries to get a car loan, boat loan or even a mortgage using your identity. These can be some of the hardest types of fraudsters to fight, and the toughest types of loans to know about, so if your credit card company doesn’t offer this type of service, you may want to contact a credit reporting agency and sign up for a similar service with them.
- Contact your bank, credit union or other financial institutions. Let them know that your identity has been compromised. Ask them for their procedures. Some banks will issue new debit cards, others may go as far as issuing you new account numbers.
- If your license, passport, or social security card has been stolen, you’ll need to contact the appropriate government agency to have these re-issued. Unfortunately if you don’t have your passport, you need to apply for a new one in person at the Closest Passport Office. Social security provides information on what to do if your identity has been stolen at the Social Security Web Site.
- If you have an identity theft insurance policy, refer to it to find out how the insurance company will help you through this challenging time. One of the worst things about identity theft is the feeling of loss. Suddenly you have no control and you feel helpless while a criminal is out there pretending to be you, ruining your credit and taking over your life. Hopefully, as you work to reclaim your identity, you will have a great deal of help from others who have gone through the same difficult experience. Remember, it takes an average of 4 hours (and up to 55 hours!) to clear your name and your credit rating.