Identity Stolen? Here’s the Step-by-Step of What You Need to Do

There’s nothing casual about identify theft. If you suspect your identity has been stolen, then you need to respond as soon as you can. Even delaying for a couple of hours can have a detrimental impact on your life.

3 Steps for Dealing With Identity Theft

While there’s been a lot more consumer education on the topic of identity theft, 2016 was a record-setting year – and not for the right reasons. Roughly 15.4 million Americans had their identities compromised last year – a 16 percent increase over the previous year – and fraudsters laid claim to $16 billion dollars.

In a time when security technology is improving, criminals are also getting better at what they do. They’ve identified some vulnerabilities surrounding card-not-present transactions and have really zeroed in on ecommerce.

“We think of stopping fraud like squeezing Jell-O – when you stop it one place, it squirts out someplace else,” says Stephen Coggeshall, chief analytics and science officer at Lifelock, a leading identity theft protection company. “These fraudsters are pretty smart and they continue to look for the weakest points of attack.”

While the hope is that you’ll never be a victim of identity fraud, statistics show that it’s becoming increasingly possible. Should you find yourself in an unfortunate situation, you need to know how to act.

The following is the three-step process you’re encouraged to use in order to stop the problem and recover:

1. Report the Fraud and Freeze Accounts

Before you do anything else, you have to stop the damage and report the fraud. There are a number of ways you should do this, including:

  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports to notify lenders that your identity has been compromised. This alert will remain active for 90 days.
  • Most people don’t realize that they can call the police. Like any other crime, the police will file a report and gather information.
  • Finally, reach out to the Federal Trade Commission and create an official identity theft report.

2. Get Your Credit Report

Once the hackers have been cut off, accounts have been frozen, and appropriate parties have been notified, your next step is to survey the damage and create a game plan for what’s next. The best place to start is with your credit report.

“Review your reports closely for any accounts you didn’t initiate, or for new or fraudulent charges on other accounts,” advises Lexington Law, a leading credit repair firm. “If you see errors or debts you don’t recognize, contact the credit reporting companies and the fraud department of each business reporting an error.

3. Start the Rebuilding Process

Now comes the tedious rebuilding process. Every situation is different, but most identity theft victims have to jump through a number of hoops in order to move on and ensure the damage doesn’t stick with them for years to come.

One specific thing you may have to do is close and reopen accounts with different financial institutions. This takes lots of time and patience, but it’s often necessary if you want to prevent cyber criminals from ever gaining control over your finances again.

You should also implement some different preventative measures moving forward. This includes properly disposing of paper documents with personal information, password protecting accounts and devices, and signing up for monitoring services.

Drop Everything and Act

As you’ll notice, a lot of responding to identity theft simply involves you reaching out to the right resources so that they can handle the issue for you.

Your role is to make sure you act in a swift manner and don’t allow the problem to get any worse. Time is of the essence and you have to move quickly.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.