Don’t let identity theft ruin your finances
Identity theft is a serious problem that affects millions of Americans every year. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, 13.1 million U.S. citizens fell victim to identity theft in 2015. In Utah, there were 2,567 cases of identity theft that year.
Do you know what you would do if you discovered your identity had been stolen?
Research from the Federal Trade Commission suggests that many Americans are unsure of the proper steps to take after discovering they have fallen victim to identity theft. The following are some basic actions to consider taking if you find your identity has been stolen:
Place a fraud alert on your three credit reports. The following companies are the three major credit reporting bureaus (including the phone number to their fraud department):
- Equifax (1-800-525-6285)
- Experian (1-888-397-3742)
- TransUnion (1-800-680-7289)
Call any one of these three companies to place a fraud alert on your credit reports, as each company must tell the other two. An active fraud alert on your credit reports will help prevent new credit applications from being processed in your name.
Order your credit reports. You may be eligible for a free copy of your credit report if you suspect you’ve been a victim. In addition, you can obtain one report each year from each bureau even if there is no identity theft. By getting a copy of your credit report from one of the bureaus, you can see if any new accounts or credit applications have been started in your name, and how many. Credit reports can be a useful resource in this situation, as they contain nearly all of your credit information.
Submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This can be done by calling the FTC (1-877-653-4261) and speaking with a counselor. Your counselor will ask questions to gather the necessary information to create an “Identity Theft Affidavit”. By requesting that a copy of your Affidavit be sent to you via email, you can save or print it for your own reference.
Another option is to submit a complaint to the FTC online by following the prompts at ftc.gov/complaint. This method can also help provide you with an Identify Theft Affidavit.
File a police report. Once you’ve received your Identity Theft Affidavit from the FTC, take it to your local police (or the police where the identity theft took place) and file an official police report. Ask for a copy of the report and keep it with your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. These official documents are now your Identity Theft Report.
Keep in mind:
Generally speaking, the quicker you recognize and take action against identity theft and financial fraud, the less your liability for charges may be. For this reason, consider checking your finances on a regular basis and watching for suspicious or unusual activity. Many financial institutions offer services to help you quickly identify unusual account activity. Speak with your banker about the options available to you.
Recovering from identity theft can be a difficult, time-consuming process that tests your patience and causes frustration. But don’t give up, and remember that a full recovery from identity theft is possible.