No one wants to have their identity stolen. It’s a traumatizing experience and can be financially devastating if not handled properly. That’s why it’s so important to be properly prepared for this unfortunate situation and follow procedure to protect your identity and finances from a would be identity thief. The entire process of protecting or recovering your identity can seem daunting though. There are a myriad of steps to complete and in these stressful situations sometimes people just don’t know where to begin or who to speak to.
Thankfully, we have you covered. In this article, we’re going to cover the top five steps you should take if you believe your identity may be stolen or already has been stolen. We’re going to cover who to reach out to, what to do and how to go about recovering your identity in the case of fraud. Without further ado, let’s begin.
1. File a report with the FTC
The FTC (or Federal Trade Commission) is a national agency that monitors credit card fraud around the world. They compile information regarding cases of identity theft and then pass that information off to local and federal law enforcement agencies. While they personally don’t have the power to press charges, they will be the agency that collects and compiles the data of all of your fraudulent charges.
If you suspect your identity may be stolen, they are the people you first want to report to. Immediately following the filing of a report your transactions will be closely monitored by trained professionals who will do everything in their power to track down your identity thief and recover your identity. You can file a report for free at www.identitytheft.gov and they will immediately begin investing your claim and reporting all activity to relevant law enforcement agencies.
2. Contact your local police department
While the police department may not be able to help you if your identity theft took place online, it will at the very least create a paper trail and documentation of this theft of your identity. Many local police departments have identity theft task forces such as New Jersey.
If there is such a task force in your state be sure to contact them as well as your local department that investigate cyber crime on a local level. The police can be a valuable resource in tracking down local identity thieves and at the very least obtaining documentation of this breach in your identity can prove to be invaluable when building a case later on.
3. Place a fraud alert on your credit report
If someone has stolen your identity the last thing you want to do is be held liable for any charges placed in your name. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report will notify the major credit agencies that potential fraud has taken place on your account and will notify any institution that pulls your credit on your personal credit report. This alert will remain on your credit report for one year and is a great way of notifying any institutions that pull your credit that you were a victim of identity theft and or fraud. You only need to request a fraud alert from one of the three major credit reporting bureaus and they will report it to the other two. Placing a fraud alert is free and a great way to protect yourself from damaging information on your credit report.
4. Freeze your credit
For additional security, you can request a credit freeze on your account. This will deny anyone access to pulling your credit report and completely cut off access to your credit report. You’ll need to contact each credit bureau individually to request a freeze on your report. This process is free, although a bit time consuming because you need to reach out to each agency individually, unlike when you place a fraud alert.
That being said, freezing your credit is a great way to protect your information when you feel your identity may be under attack. Once you feel the danger has cleared you can simply reach out to the agencies and request that they unfreeze your credit.
5. Cancel your cards and open new accounts
While this can be a hassle, if you believe your identity may be compromised it’s important to immediately cancel all cards that you believe may be affected and order replacement cards as soon as possible. While most credit cards offer fraud protection no one wants to feel vulnerable and having to wait for a credit card company to conduct an investigation on fraud can sometimes take months before you are able to have your money returned to you.
If you believe your identity may be compromised, cancel your cards and order replacements. It’s the safe bet and will ultimately pay off by protecting you and your credit score from unnecessary dips and unauthorized charges. If your personal identity documents have been stolen you can order a replacement social security card in Hawaii or any other state easily by visiting a local Social Security branch and requesting a replacement card. You can order a replacement social security card in Hawaii or any other state up to three times a year, which should be more than enough for an average person.
In conclusion, while no one wants to have their identity stolen, by following the steps outlined in this article we hope people can protect themselves and get one step closer to ultimately regaining control of their identity and put an identity thief behind bars.
Remember, if you believe your identity may be stolen follow the five simple steps outlined above: file a report with the Federal Trade Commision (FTC), contact your local police, place a fraud alert on your credit report, freeze your credit, and cancel all relevant cards and order replacements. We hope by following these steps you can remain protected and ultimately protect yourself, and your credit from theft and fraud.