Identity Theft is a real and growing problem for everyone, according to a recent article by Experian, in 2017 an astounding 1,579 data breaches were reported which exposed 179 million records with sensitive information. Unfortunately, the problem is growing, and identity thieves are always looking for new ways to steal confidential information in order to commit crimes. What can you do if you suspect you are a victim of Identity Theft? The steps below outline the actions you should take:
If you suspect you are a victim of Identity Theft take immediate action. The more proactive you are in implementing the action items below the better off you will be at avoiding potential identity thieves to use your personal information to obtain loans, credit cards and committing fraud by impersonating you.
Report the identity theft to the fraud department of the following reporting agencies as soon as possible
Inform the credit bureaus and the credit issuers (in writing) of any fraudulent accounts and incorrect information. Confirm that an extended fraud alert (seven years) is placed on your credit report.
Review Your Credit Report:
Request a copy of your credit report and request that only the last four digits of your Social Security number be placed on the report. If you identify anything suspicious, dispute those transactions with the Credit Agencies.
Notify those who have received your credit report in the last six months and alert them that you suspect you are a victim of Identity Theft. If your Credit Report shows that accounts were established under your name and you do not recognize the creditor, contact them immediately so that those accounts can be frozen.
Inform all Financial Institutions you have Bank Accounts and Credit Cards that you are a victim of Identity Theft. Obtain replacement credit cards with new, secure account numbers and destroy any old cards.
Federal Trade Commission:
Report that your identity has been stolen to the Federal Trade Commission in order to establish an Identity Theft Affidavit. Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit.
Report your Identity Theft to your local police or sheriff’s department. Make sure to provide as much documented evidence as possible. Verify that the police report lists the fraudulent accounts and keep a copy of the report.
Accountant and IRS:
Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU): 800.908.4490 to report your Identity Theft. This will alert them to any claim for refund or other activity on your account. File IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit. Contact your Accountant so that he or she is informed of your situation and can provide IRS Representation on your behalf, and assist you in communicating directly with the IRS. Ask your Accountant to assist you in contacting your state tax agency to report the theft. Some agencies may require a police report and/or the IRS affidavit.
Contact the U.S. Postal Inspector to inform them of your Identity Theft and reduce the risk of mail fraud.
Check your earnings record to make sure no one is using your SSN to obtain work. Call your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office if something looks inaccurate. Contact the SSA Inspector General to report Social Security benefits fraud, employment fraud, or welfare fraud.
Health Insurance Provider:
Contact your health insurance company if your insurance card was accessed or stolen to help prevent the thief from using your insurance. Similarly, notify Medicare if your Medicare card was accessed or stolen.
Utilities and Brokers:
Contact your local utility providers (gas, electric, cable, Internet, cellular carrier, etc.) to ensure no new accounts are opened in your name. Similarly, let your investment or retirement account company know your identity documents were stolen so they will be alert to any suspicious activity on your account.
Inform collectors that you are a victim of fraud and, therefore, not responsible for the account. Ask for the name of the collection company/the name of the person contacting you, the phone number and the address. Ask for the name and contact information for the referring credit issuer, the amount of the debt, account number and dates of the charges. Follow up, in writing, with the debt collector and ensure that they confirm, in writing, that you do not owe the debt and that the account has been closed.
- Create an identity theft file (keep copies of everything).
- Change all your account passwords. As an extra step, consider changing your username.
- In all communications with the credit bureaus, refer to the unique number assigned to your credit report. When mailing information, use certified, return receipt. Be sure to save all credit reports as part of your fraud documentation file.
- Review your credit report periodically. An extended fraud alert allows you to obtain two free credit reports from each of the credit reporting agencies within 12 months.
- Consider requesting a security freeze. You can prevent issues from accessing your credit files unless you give them permission. This prevents thieves from opening new credit cards and loan accounts.
- Consider requesting a criminal background check to ensure your identity is not being used in connection with criminal activities.
Should you ever find yourself a victim of identity theft, we hope this article provides critical steps you can take in order to mitigate your risk of fraud.