Hopefully you’ve never had your identity stolen. If you have, you know what a pain — in more ways than one — it can be. You not only have to update personal information, you’ll likely lose money as well. According to a recent study on identity theft, among those who had their identity stolen in 2019, the median loss was $375. And that’s just counting incidents that were reported to the FTC. In the event that you do have your identity stolen, here are some immediate steps to take. Go through these and you can likely minimize the damage done.
Report It. Head to the FTC’s identity theft site (www.identitytheft.gov) and report the incident. Not only will this help the FTC battle scammers, but also it will prompt the agency to send you a detailed plan about how to recover your info. The plan also comes with pre-filled forms that should be sent to your local police. Those forms will become part of your report. By also filing with your local law enforcement, you’re (again) helping others and helping yourself. If someone uses your personal info or accounts to commit a crime, the police already know it wasn’t you.
Initiate a Fraud Notice. Once you’ve contacted the FTC and the police, you’ll want to place a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. A fraud alert tells anyone who tries to access your report that your identity has been compromised, and therefore requires a more detailed identity verification process. This alert will stay on your credit reports for one year.
Get Monitoring. As US News reports, if your info was stolen via a data breach, you might be offered free credit monitoring. Sign up for it. If this was an isolated incident, you can pay for credit monitoring if you feel it’s necessary, but start with your bank or credit union to see if they offer this service for free.
Update Your Passwords. If you don’t already use one, sign up for a password manager app/site. The manager will create new, complex passwords and keep track of all of them. You’ll sign in using a single master password that you have to track. Then, while putting the manager into play, change every single password you have. Yes, every one. Now is not the time to cut corners.
Get New Accounts. In some cases of identity theft, you’ll need to close credit card and bank accounts and reopen new ones. Even if the account seems untouched, it’s better safe than sorry.