Identity Theft – Know what to do

tall stack of paper to report identity theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone. You might think of identity theft as most often related to credit or banking, but in reality, the scope is much bigger. If you suspect your identity might be at risk, taking these steps as soon as possible can help clear your name:

  1. Report It – If you think you may be an identity theft victim report the theft to your local law enforcement. If you are missing documents such as a Passport, driver’s license, social security card or credit/debit card, contact the appropriate agency’s to report it:
    • Missing driver’s license: Contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, cancel the lost license, and get a replacement. Request a note be placed in your file so no one else can request an ID in your name.
    • Missing passport: Go to the U.S. State Department’s website for reporting and re-issuing lost or stolen passports.
    • Lost or stolen Social Security card: If you wish to replace a lost Social Security card, you can do so on the Social Security Administration’s website.
    • Lost or stolen credit card/debit card/checks: Report the theft to the financial institution or credit card issuer and request that they stop payment on transactions. Request replacement cards.

Next, create an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC will collect details regarding your theft and refer complaints to other government agencies and businesses.

  1. Contact the credit bureaus – Get in touch with the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Ask that they put a security freeze or a fraud alert on your account.
  • Fraud Alert – When you place a fraud alert on your credit report, you are telling businesses that they must first verify your identity before responding to any credit requests.
  • Credit Freeze – A freeze entirely prevents anyone other than you from accessing your credit report, and will stop anyone from getting new credit in your name. It stays in effect until you request it to be lifted, and there is a fee involved.
  1. Notify Financial Institutions – If you discover fraudulent activity on any of your credit, debit, or investment accounts, you will need to dispute the charges with the financial institution involved. Reset all account numbers, passwords and PINs for your accounts. You may be able to close accounts that have fraudulent charges.
  1. Request your Criminal History Report – individuals have the right to request a copy of their own criminal history record. This will show you if anyone is stealing your identity and using it in a criminal matter. Contact your local Department of Justice.
  1. Check your Tax Records – Cyber criminals sometimes use stolen Social Security numbers to file tax returns or apply for jobs. If you have experienced tax ID theft, you should contact the IRS and work with a tax fraud specialist. Your accountant will be able to help you file an IRS form for identity theft.
  1. Monitor your Identity for the Future – you are legally entitled to one free copy of your credit report per year with each of the three bureaus (meaning you can check up to three times a year). Your credit report will show if any fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name. Report any errors—such as accounts you did not open or debts that do not belong to you—to credit agencies.

Regardless of if you’ve haven your identity stolen or not, think carefully about the information you share online, and take steps to keep personal information safe at home. Shred sensitive documents. Protect your computers with antivirus and firewall software. Do not open email attachments, or click on links, from unknown senders.