Steps to Take if Your Identity is Stolen

9 Signs of Identity Theft | Navy Federal Credit Union

Millions of people experience identity theft each year.

Resolving an identity theft crime can cost hundreds of dollars and take countless hours.

While I’ve never been a victim of identity theft myself, a close relative had their identity stolen a few years ago.

It’s a stressful situation and can feel very unfair.

If you’ve recently discovered that someone is using your identity or applying for credit in your name, here are a few immediate steps you should take:

Contact the Credit Bureaus

One of the first actions to take is to check your credit report to assess any damage and contact the three major credit bureaus. Inform them of your situation and request a fraud alert on your credit report. This alert typically lasts for 90 days but can be extended if necessary.

Document Everything

Keep detailed records of your situation from the moment you become aware of it until it is resolved. Note every phone call, email, and letter, along with the names and dates of those you contact. This helps you stay organized and provides documentation in case of any disputes. Track the time and any expenses involved in resolving the issue, as these costs may be tax-deductible.

File a Police Report and Legal Documents

Filing a report at your local police station can help document the theft. Bring any paperwork or proof you have and keep a copy of the report. You can also obtain the Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit form, which helps creditors understand that you are not responsible for the fraudulent transactions.

Change Your PIN and Close Accounts

Update all your debit and credit card PINs and bank login information. Ensure your compromised accounts are closed and order new cards for security.

Contact Lenders and Debt Collectors

Finally, reach out to lenders and debt collectors to remove negative records from your credit report. Keep copies of all correspondence. If a debt collector insists you pay, involve the lender and present your evidence to dispute the claim. Do not sign anything without having it in writing.

How to Prevent Identity Theft

Whether or not you’ve experienced identity theft, everyone is at risk. Here are some preventive measures:

  • Check Your Credit Report: Regularly check your credit report for changes or inaccuracies. You can get a free annual report from all credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com, or use services like CreditKarma or Credit Sesame for continuous monitoring.
  • Protect Your Computer: Install spyware programs and update your firewall to protect against hackers. Use secure wireless networks when away from home.
  • Be Cautious with Personal Information: Avoid carrying sensitive information like your PIN, account numbers, or social security card. Only carry such information if you plan to use it that day.
  • Shred Important Documents: Shred documents containing personal information before disposing of them, and place the pieces in separate trash bags.
  • Shop Online Carefully: Use secure websites for online purchases and opt for payment methods like PayPal when available.
  • Consider Identity Protection Services: Identity protection companies offer comprehensive services to monitor your credit and identity, scan the internet to remove public information, and alert you to suspicious activity. These services typically cost $10 to $30 per month and often include lost wallet protection and insurance.

Taking these steps can help protect you from identity theft and ensure that you can quickly resolve any issues that arise.

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