Recently, I went to the state license office. When I was called up to the worker’s desk, I was asked to say my address, along with my name, age, and social security number. They wanted me to say ALL OF THIS out loud in a crowded room.
If someone was paying attention, they could have taken down my information and done serious damage. I asked if I could write my information and show it to him instead, and while they were not too happy with that, he agreed (he gave me the paper back, so I was able to shred it). The person that my husband had didn’t ask him to say his information out loud and he was given a form to fill, so I’m not sure why I wasn’t given that as my first choice as well.
If I wasn’t careful, this could have led to me becoming a victim of identity theft. Little mistakes or even something that is no fault of your own may lead to you becoming a victim of identity theft as well.
Sadly, identity theft impacts over 16 million people each year and that number is expected to keep growing.
Related article: Identity Theft Impacts Millions Each Year, Could You Be Next?
I've been a victim of identity theft and I know it’s a huge headache. Even when you are extremely safe with your information, identity theft can still happen.
If you do find yourself to be a victim of identity theft, there are actions you can take to repair the situation as best as you can. This way you can get your credit score back to normal (or as close as possible), eliminate fraudulent expenses, get your life back, and more. You will want to do this as soon as possible though, so keep that in mind!
Record all actions you take.
Before we go into the main steps that you need to take in order to prevent more identity theft from occurring, you should always keep a record of everything you do.
Keeping a good record is important because you may need to show someone later (such as a credit company or a lawyer) the steps that you took to clear your name. Plus, something may get lost!
According to the FTC, you will want to:
- Log the date, names and telephone numbers of each person you contact about your identity theft;
- Send all letters about the situation via certified mail and receive a return receipt;
- Keep all originals of any documentation that is needed.
Pull your credit report.
If you believe that your identity may have been stolen and that you may be a victim of identity theft, it’s a wise idea to check your credit report to see if any other errors or theft are listed.
You will have to continue to check your credit report on a regular basis (I would check it a few times for a full year after you noticed any identity theft, then at least once a year after that), to make sure that your identity is safe.
Contact the company where your identity was stolen.
In many cases, you may be able to directly contact the company where your identity was stolen. This way you can get the situation resolved, close your account, or whatever needs to be done to stop the identity theft.
If it was something such as your credit card information was stolen, you will be given a new credit card number to prevent any other theft.
The maximum you can be charged under the Fair Credit Billing Act for unauthorized charges is $50, but many companies don’t charge anything.
For bank charges under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, you may be charged up to $50 as long as you report the fraud within two days. If you wait between 3 to 60 days, then you may be charged up to $500. After 60 days you may have to pay EVERYTHING that is charged under your name.
They key here is to report any fraudulent activity immediately.
Related article: Do You Have A Financial Emergency List?
Contact credit reporting agencies.
The next step you will want to take is to contact the credit reporting agencies so that they can be aware that your identity has been stolen. Ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your credit file so that you can be alerted if anyone tries to do anything with your identity.
The three credit reporting agencies are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Fraud alerts last for 90 days and you can renew after that.
Place a freeze on your credit report.
If you would like to, an extra step you may be able to take is to ask the credit reporting agencies if a freeze can be placed on your credit file. This will then prevent anyone from using your credit report or credit score without direct permission from you. If anyone does try to use your credit file, the application will be immediately declined.
Keep in mind that if you do this, you will have to contact the credit reporting agencies before you need your credit so that they can lift the freeze in time.
Dispute incorrect information on your credit report.
If there is something wrong on your credit report, you should always dispute it.
You may have to send a letter to the credit agency, to the fraud department of where the identity theft took place, and provide proof of the theft, but it is well worth it to clear your name.
Whatever you do send in, keep a record and all original documentation just in case you need the information in the future.
File the identity theft with the Federal Trade Commission.
Another step you should take when it comes to identity theft is to file a report with the FTC. This way it is on file and they may be able to provide even more up-to-date tips on what to do next.
Report the identity theft to the police.
While the police department may not be able to do much usually when it comes to an identity theft case, having it reported is a small step that may go a long way.
You never know if a police officer may come across someone who has all of your information on them (I have actually heard of this happening and the person was arrested because they had a book full of stolen identity information). Also, you will need a police report filed if you plan on reporting identity theft to the FTC.
Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? What happened?
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