While taking precautions against identity theft and fraud can reduce your chances of getting your personal information stolen, unfortunately, it can happen to anybody. If you are a victim of identity theft, there are steps you can take to recover. Depending on what information was stolen, it could take anywhere from just a few hours up to a few months to recover. ACCC has these tips for those recovering from identity theft.
Report the identity theft.
When you first discover you have been a victim of identity theft, the first step is to report it. Contact your local police department first. Next, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC website has advice and resources that may be helpful for you in recovering from identity theft.
File a claim with your identity theft insurance.
If you have identity theft insurance, file a claim. Identity theft insurance can help you cover some of the costs associated with your identity being stolen. These costs may include legal fees, notary fees, lost wages, mailing documents, and copies of your credit report.
Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
The next step in recovering from identity theft is to contact the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and request a fraud alert be placed on your credit reports. A fraud alert lets companies know that your identity has been stolen, so if you apply for new credit accounts, the credit card company will look closely to make sure it’s really you applying. The fraud alert will stay on your credit report for one year. If you need it to stay after the year is up, you must contact them again.
Notify your financial institutions that your identity was stolen.
It is important that you notify all the financial institutions you use that your identity was stolen. Call your creditors to let them know that fraudulent transactions may have occurred. If your Social Security number was stolen, you should also contact the IRS. You want to ensure that no one is filing a tax return under your name and Social Security number. Additionally, you should contact your insurance companies to alert them to potential suspicious activity.
Freeze your credit.
Freezing your credit can protect you while you are in the process of recovering from identity theft. This means no one will be able to access your credit report. In order to do this, you must contact each of the three credit bureaus individually. When you are ready to unfreeze your credit, you will have to contact them again.
Change your passwords.
It’s a good idea to change your passwords for your online bank and credit card accounts, email, and anything else that may have been compromised. Be sure to make strong passwords. Use both upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. If you write your passwords down, keep them in a safe place. Don’t just tape them to your laptop where anyone can see them! Recovering from identity theft includes developing good security habits so you don’t become a victim again.
Monitor credit card and bank statements.
You should do this regularly anyway, but if your identity has been stolen, pay extra close attention to credit card and bank statements. Check for any unauthorized charges or suspicious activity. Do you have a credit card or banking app? If so, this makes it easy to check your accounts every day.
Recovering from Identity Theft: Final Tips
No matter how careful you are, anyone can be a victim of identity theft. Of course, you can and should take steps to protect yourself, but you can do everything right and thieves will still find a way around it. Recovering from identity theft can be a long process. Make a checklist of all the accounts that are compromised and all the agencies you need to contact. Staying organized can be helpful during this stressful time. If identity theft has caused problems with your credit, there is help available. A nonprofit credit counseling agency, like ACCC, may be able to help.
To speak to one of our certified credit counselors, contact 800-769-3571.