Think Your Identity Might Have Been Stolen? What to do Next
Keep calm, stay organized, and follow these important first steps to recovery
The earlier you can catch fraud or identity theft, the better. If you’re not regularly checking your accounts or watching for suspicious activity, you might not even notice a thief is using your information fraudulently. But if you have noticed something out of the ordinary—maybe you received a credit card you didn’t apply for or received a call about an account you never opened—don’t delay in taking action.
Wondering where to start? Here’s a list of things to do right away if you suspect you’ve become a victim of identity theft.
Protect your existing accounts
The first thing you should do is change all your passwords to any online accounts. Then, directly contact all of your credit card companies and your bank(s) immediately to let them know you may be a victim of fraud.
If your bank account has been compromised, call them and close or decline any new accounts you didn’t authorize, close accounts that have been accessed, stop payments on missing checks, and request a new PIN (Personal Identification Number). If your credit cards have been compromised, cancel current credit/debit cards. Once you’ve been issued a replacement card, update that number with any merchant accounts, and update passwords there, as well.
Safeguard your credit score
If accounts are opened with your information, these could directly affect your credit. First, close these fraudulent accounts immediately. Then, contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report the theft:
You can ask that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.
Report the theft to police and the federal government
File a report with local police or the police where the identity theft took place. The police report number or a copy of the report can be helpful as proof of the crime when you contact banks and credit card companies. You can also file a complaint with the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov and get help creating a personal recovery plan.
Keep a record of everything
Having your identity stolen can be overwhelming and stressful, so it’s important to stay organized to make your recovery is as smooth as possible. Create a file to store any information related to the theft: printed emails, notes from phone conversations with creditors, banks or agencies (include dates, times, who you spoke to, and contact numbers); and any mail or documentation. Keep a record of everything that was lost, and case numbers assigned to each account.
Taking these steps will ensure all the right people know the theft has occurred and will help to put your recovery plan into action.
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