Identity theft could be one of the most frustrating issues to deal with in your lifetime. That is why it is crucial to have a plan in place before this situation happens to you.
To help you rebound from an identity theft incident, here is a look at the types of identity theft and what steps you may want to take as soon as you find out that you are a victim. However, you should always contact an attorney or advisor and appropriate law enforcement if you believe you are a victim of identity theft.
Types of Identity Theft
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, identity theft is a crime in which someone knowingly and unlawfully uses someone’s personally identifiable data to commit fraud for financial gain. Since identity theft can take different forms, four general types are:
- Financial identity theft
This is the most common identity theft. In this case, someone steals your Social Security number to open bank accounts, credit cards, or secure loans in your name.
- Tax identity theft
This type of identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund.
- Medical identity theft
In this case, someone steals your identity to get medical services. If you are a victim of medical identity theft, you will want to contact your doctor and specialists right away. You will also want to contact your health insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid.
- Child identity theft
This type of identity theft occurs when a minor’s personal information is used to commit fraud.
Steps to take after identity theft
- Contact the companies where you know the fraud occurred
Contact the bank, credit card company, or the lender where the fraud took place. You will be asked to verify your identity and then fill out some paperwork. This may help you avoid being liable for any costs incurred by the fraud.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Contact the FTC through their website or call 1-877-438-4338. This may help you provide proof that your identity was stolen and will help ensure certain rights are reserved.
- Monitor your credit reports and your financial accounts
Check your credit reports to see if any unpaid debts have been reported. Also, be sure to check all your financial accounts to ensure that your funds are secure.
- Place fraud alerts and security freezes
To minimize the damage to your credit, place a security freeze on your credit report from all three national credit reporting agencies. This will prevent anyone from opening a new account or taking out a loan in your name. You can always unfreeze or thaw your credit later.
- Close accounts opened in your name
When you find open accounts in your name that you no longer need, close them as soon as you can.
- Contact law enforcement
Contact law enforcement. Some banks, credit card companies, and lenders may continue to make you liable for any losses until you have filed a police report.
- Dispute fraudulent activity
When you find any fraudulent activity on your accounts, be sure to dispute them. You may not be liable for any costs incurred on these accounts.
- Make safeguards to ensure that this does not happen again
Try to discover how your identity was stolen and put in safeguards to ensure this does not happen again. Some of the steps you can take include updating passwords to your online account and securing all your credit cards and bank cards.
How to deal with certain individual compromised accounts
There are a number of different accounts that can be compromised due to identity theft. Here is a look at the different types of accounts that can be compromised and how you can handle them.
If someone opens a cable, electric, water, or other types of service, be sure to contact the service provider right away and ask them to close the account. Provide a police report to prevent this debt from being reported to your credit report.
Contact the phone service provider. If the phone service provider does not resolve the problem, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338.
- Government benefits
Contact the government agency that is responsible for the benefits. Each agency has its own procedure as to how to resolve the problem. In many cases, you may have to provide a police report.
- Checking accounts
If you think that someone obtained a checking account in your name, you can check by obtaining a free copy of your ChexSystems report by calling 1-800-428-9623 or visiting the ChexSystem website.
- Investment accounts
If your investment accounts have been compromised, contact the account manager at the investment brokerage.
- Bankruptcies used in your name
If a bankruptcy has been filed in your name, contact the U.S. Trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed. You may also consider hiring an attorney to resolve the issue.
Special identity theft issues
There are some unique situations that you may have to deal with when resolving identity theft issues. Here are three particular issues that you may encounter:
- Misused Social Security Card
If someone is using your Social Security number, contact the Social Security office to get a replacement card and possibly a new Social Security number.
- Stopping debt collectors from trying to collect a debt that you do not owe
In order to stop a debt from becoming identity theft, write to the debt collector within 30 days of receiving a collection letter. Also, send any supporting documents.
- Clear your name of criminal charges
If someone is arrested and uses your personal information, contact the law enforcement agency that arrested the person who stole your identity. You may need to file a report and provide other supporting documents.
Getting back to normal after identity theft
Dealing with identity theft can be stressful. However, if you have a plan - and follow the right steps, you should be able to rebound quickly and get back to your everyday life.