Things You Should Immediately Do if Your Identity Has Been Stolen

Every two seconds, another person falls victim to identity theft. And it’s a crime that’s on the rise. As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, cybercriminals have increased opportunities to steal your information. Using public Wi-Fi, email scams, and social media can increase your risk. Even with the best privacy and security systems, your data is vulnerable.

Time is critical when it comes to identity theft. The sooner you identify the problem, the quicker it will be to resolve. A thief can do a lot more damage if given months to run with your identity instead of weeks.

Here are eight things you should immediately do if your identity has been stolen.

Worried woman having problems buying online

What to Do if Your Identity Has Been Stolen

1. Take a Deep Breath

Identity theft is a serious invasion of your privacy and security. If you’ve discovered you’re a victim of identity theft; it’s normal to have a lot of emotions. Let yourself feel everything. Then take a deep breath to clear your head.

The good news is you can recover from identity theft. It will take time. It will be frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Follow these steps for what to do if your identity is stolen. Take them one at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

2. Call Banks and Companies to Report Fraud

Your first step is to let companies know your identity has been stolen. Identity theft can take many forms, from opening new credit cards and draining your bank account to filing a false tax return and claiming your refund.

Call the fraud department at all companies where your identity was compromised. Explain that your identity was stolen. Ask for copies of documents and statements that show the fraudulent accounts and charges. You should always note the namedate, and time of any phone conversations.

While you are already on the phone, ask for your accounts to be closed or frozen. This prevents the identity thief from continuing to use your account and creates more problems for you to solve.

3. Call the Credit Bureaus

The three major credit bureaus do more than track your credit and issue a credit score. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax can all place a fraud alert on your credit. A fraud alert will notify any institution pulling your credit that your identity has been compromised. This triggers a few extra steps to verify your identity before issuing new lines of credit.

Fraud alerts are free to place and last for one year. You can set up an account online or call. This only needs to be done with one credit bureau. Once the fraud alert is in place, the first credit bureau will transfer the request to the remaining two bureaus.

Fraud alerts don’t prevent new lines of credit from being issued. If you want extra security, you can place a credit freeze. This prevents any financial institution from checking your credit. Without access to your credit report, no new lines of credit can be issued. Unlike a fraud alert, you must call each credit bureau individually to place a credit freeze. The freeze will stay in place until you remove it.

4. Check Your Credit Report

Even if you regularly monitor your credit score through your bank or another service, it’s worth pulling your full credit report if you’re a victim of identity theft. Your credit report will have all lines of credit that are open in your name. It will also have payment history, credit inquiries, and other detailed information.

Once a year, you can get your free credit report from each credit bureau. Look at all three reports to see if there are any accounts or transactions you don’t recognize. Document any fraudulent accounts or late payments. These can negatively affect your credit score. You should request to have them removed from your report.

5. File Identity Theft Report With the Federal Trade Commission

Once you’ve compiled the data on the extent of your identity theft, head to the FTC’s identity theft website to file your report. This will give you a detailed recovery plan with pre-filled forms and letters.

While the FTC can’t pursue criminal charges for identity theft, filing with the FTC aids law enforcement agencies. Reporting your identity theft to the FTC also grants you certain rights.

6. Report Crime to Your Local Police Department

Identity theft is a serious crime that should be reported to your local police department. Bring a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, along with your ID, proof of address (utility bill or mortgage statement,) and all other documents you have related to your identity theft.

Once completed, ask for a copy of the police report. This may help resolve any disputes that come up.

7. File a Claim With Identity Theft Insurance

Identity theft insurance is becoming more common thanks to the rise in theft rates. It can cover costs such as postage and notarization required for recovering your identity.

If you purchased a plan, file a claim with your insurer as early in the process as possible. The insurer can help identify what to do if your identity is stolen.

Even if you didn’t purchase a separate identity theft insurance plan for yourself, you may have some coverage. Many employers and insurance companies roll identity theft protection into their benefits and policies. Check with your HR department or home insurance provider to see what coverage you may have.

8. Update Account and Security Information

You’ll most likely receive new account numbers and credit cards when reporting identity theft. If you have any bills on autopay, you’ll want to update those with your new account numbers. Keep these accounts secure by updating your security information. A password manager can help keep track of complex passwords and ensure you change them regularly.

Girl trying to keep her internet data confidential typing password in secret

Next Steps: Stay Vigilant

Identity theft is one of the unfortunate dangers in the digital world. While there are steps you can take to protect yourself, no protection is perfect. Monitor your identity so you can take immediate action should someone attempt to steal it.

It is possible to correct the damage incurred by a stolen identity. The process may take time, and you may encounter frustration along the way. Just take a deep breath and tackle the problem one step at a time.