Speed Up the Recovery Process: What to Do if You Experience Identity Theft

hacker in the dark identity theft

Wondering how to report identity theft? Find out which agencies to inform. 

Identity theft happens, and it is very common. What would you do if you became part of the 33% of Americans that experience identity theft? Most people would not know where to start. It is likely that at some point in your life, you will have your identity stolen. Having your identity stolen can cost you a lot of time and money. Today we will discuss what to do if it happens to you. 

Here, you will learn what to keep an eye out for, and who to contact. It is possible to recover from having your identity stolen. There is a lot of work you must do, and time is of the essence. With this guide, we hope that you can quickly recover from identity theft. We hope that you can soon get back on your feet and go about your life as normal. 

Signs to look out for 

man looking through binoculars

There are several signs that may show that your identity has been stolen. You have to do your due diligence to keep an eye out for these signs. The sooner you see them, the sooner you can fix the issue. As we said earlier, time is of the essence.

Have you lost your credit card or seen mysterious purchases? Your credit card being physically stolen is one type of theft. It should be reported immediately. If someone, who should not have access to the account, is using your card numbers to make purchases, that is also theft. At the end of each week or month, compare your receipts with your credit card statement. Look out for any unexplainable purchases.  

Are there strange withdrawals from your bank account? Even small ones should be reported. Often times, identity thieves will make a small withdrawal, less than $3. They do this to test the waters. They want to see if they can take money out of your account without raising suspicion. Be sure to keep a close eye on your bank statement. Does your bank allow you to login online? Check it weekly to see if suspicious purchases or withdrawals have been made.

Has a healthcare professional provided incorrect information? You might receive a bill for a procedure or service you have never used. Health insurance could deny a medical claim because you have reached your max benefits. A doctor might list a condition in your medical records that you do not have. All of these are signs that your identity could have been stolen. Someone might steal your identity to get medical services or treatment. They may also steal your identity to get their hands on drugs or insurance money. 

You may see new debt you have not taken out in your name. Are you getting letters, emails, or phone calls about debt you have not taken out? Sometimes these calls may just be scammers trying to steal your money or identity. Other times, these may be legitimate businesses that have an account with your name on it. Not sure who to trust? Get the company’s information and hang up on them. Research them online to see if they are legitimate company. Search them on Google, look at reviews, check out their social media, and check their listing with the BBB. If they are a scam, you will want to report them. Check out our a resource on reporting scams. If they are a legitimate company, go to their website and find a good phone number. Use that number to call them and find out more about the account that was opened in your name. Do not call back the same number that called you. That last number may have been a scammer posing as that company. You will also want to check your credit report. Keep an eye out for any new debt that you have not taken out in your name. You can check your credit score for free at Credit Karma.

Want to know about how your credit score works? Check out this resource.

There are two other less common red flags. If you notice that you are not receiving mail, that may be another sign. A person may be physically stealing mail out of your mailbox. They may have changed your address on an account to have that mail sent to them. They may have even forwarded your mail to another address. If you go to file your taxes, and the IRS tells you that you have already filed your taxes, that is another red flag. Someone has used your social security number to steal your tax refund. In 2023, there were over one million reported cases of identity theft.

Report the theft  

Exterior of Milford police headquarters

Call your bank and credit card company to put a hold on your account. Do this as soon as possible to prevent further purchases from being made. You can have your bank close your card and send you a new one. Double check and confirm your address with them before they send the new card. If there are suspicious purchases on your account, tell your bank. If you think your card is just temporarily missing, and there are no suspicious purchases, you can ask to put a temporary hold on it. This prevents others from using it. If you do not find your card in a few days, cancel that card, and get a new one.

Banks and credit card companies are more likely to work with you if you report the suspicious purchases immediately. They are more likely to work with you if the purchases were on a credit card. Some companies have policies to protect cardholders from identity theft. The Fair Credit Billing Act may protect you somewhat from false purchases. This act may determine that you only have to pay $50 of the full amount stolen from your card. 

After contacting your bank, you should contact a credit reporting agency. You only need to contact TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax. You do not need to contact all three to request a fraud alert. One agency can place the alert on all three of your credit files for you. A fraud alert makes it difficult to open an account in your name. With the fraud alert, you will receive a free credit report from each agency. Look through the report to see if there is anything suspicious. Look out for new accounts, credit inquiries, and purchases you did not make. You will also want to check that your previous employment history is correct, and your personal information is too. If anything is not accurate, make a note of it. Keep this information. You will use it later.

A fraud alert will last for a year, but it can be extended if need be. If the identity theft was bad, you can file an Identity Theft Report with the credit reporting agency. This will extend the fraud alert for seven years! Keep in mind that this will make it difficult for you to open your own accounts in the future. It is a small price to pay to ensure that your identity stays safe. If the fraud was really awful, you can put an entire freeze on your credit. This time, you will want to contact all three credit reporting agencies. Contact them and let them know to put a freeze on your credit. This means that your credit will be locked down tight. None of the agencies will be able to release your credit report to anyone. The freeze will stay in effect until you request to lift it.

Now it is time to move onto the next step. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website. You can report it by completing their online form. You can also call them to report it. Ask for information on a recovery plan and Identity Theft Report. They can give you these resources. The Identity Theft Report is proof that your identity was stolen. Try to print a few copies of the report. You will need it for the next few steps.

Go to your local police to file the report. You can walk into a local police station or call them. Do not dial 911. Instead, try calling their local non-emergency number. Explain what happened. If you know that your credit card was used in a different state or city, you can try contacting the police there as well. Again, try contacting their local non-emergency number. Give the police a copy of your Identity Theft Report.

Remember that list of inaccuracies you made while looking at your report? We are going to use that now. Go to the FTC’s website. They have templates that you can use to send a request to the credit reporting agencies. Use these templates to request that the credit bureaus remove inaccuracies. Use the list you made earlier and ask them to remove those items.

You will need to go back to all of your affected accounts and change the passwords. This may include the following accounts: email, bank, credit card, credit bureau, doctor office, health insurance, tax preparer, and more. Change the passwords for the affected accounts. Use a strong password. Use different passwords with each account. Make sure it is not something easy to guess. Use a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. If you are worried about forgetting your passwords, you can use a secure password manager. Dashlane is a highly recommended password manager.

Was your social security number used? Contact the Office of the Inspector General and let them know what happened. Ask them for information on your personal earning and benefits. Look over the information for mysterious activity. If your physical social security card was stolen, ask the SSA for a new card.

Was your driver’s license number used? Contact your local DMV to report the license number. They will flag it every time it is used. If your physical driver’s license was stolen, ask the DMV to replace your card. Contact the State Department if your passport was stolen. Report it to them either on their website or by phone. They can help you replace your passport.

Finally, you will want to contact your utility companies. Warn them that someone may try to open a new account in your name. Let your utility companies know what happened. Use a current utility bill as proof of who you are and where you live. They may notice that someone has already used your information to open another account. If this is the case, ask them to close the other account. Contact all of your utility companies. Do not forget about your water, gas, electricity, internet, cable, or cell provider.

One in five identity theft victims will have their identity stolen again. Once you have gone through the steps in this list, you will still need to keep a close eye on your accounts. Unfortunately, this may not be the last time you see strange activity. Keeping your personal identity safe takes work. It is important to remember that you are not alone. 

Identity theft is common, but it can have consequences that last years. It can be scary and frightening. We wanted to create an all-inclusive guide. We decided to create this guide with all the necessary information in one place. Hopefully, you now know that there are steps you can take if you find yourself a victim of identity theft. We hope this guide saves you money, time, and peace of mind.

If you do find yourself a victim of identity theft, you are not alone. There are things you can do to recover your identity. Have you been a victim of identity theft? What do you know now that you wish you knew then? Comment below and share your insight with others. 

Net Pay Advance is a licensed loan provider, locally owned and operated in Wichita, Kansas. Our No. 1 priority is helping you, the customer, by providing access to the cash you need and helping support financial independence goals with valuable, informational, and entertaining content. Stay up-to-date on our posts by following the Net Pay Advance Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. Our organization is committed to transparency; learn more about our authors and editorial policy. The information provided within this blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice. Please contact us if you have any questions.

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