Identity theft is an unfortunately common issue for many people. In 2017 16.7 million Americans were the victims of identity fraud. Large scale data breaches are becoming more common and it’s possible that some of your personal information has either been leaked or will be leaked in the future.
It may not be possible to prevent all possible forms of identity fraud, however, if you’re prepared then you will be able to act quickly if your personal information ever falls into the hand of a scammer. If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Here are 10 steps you can take immediately:
1. Contact your financial institution
If you believe information tied to your personal finances has been leaked or stolen, contact your financial institution as soon as possible. They will be able to help you determine the best course of action, which will depend on the type of information stolen. For example, if you lost a credit card you applied for through your credit union, they will be able to help you deactivate that account and issue a new card. Even if the information that was leaked was not directly associated with your account, it’s best to notify your financial institution of the potential risk.
2. Check your credit card statements
One of the best ways to determine if something fishy is going on with your credit cards is to check through your statements carefully. You should do this at least once a month before paying your bill. It’s often easier to refute a fraudulent purchase than to accidentally pay for it and attempt to recover the lost money. When you see a suspicious charge, contact the card issuer as soon as possible.
3. Request a free credit report
Identity thieves who gain access to your personal information may attempt to open new accounts in your name. Compared with credit card fraud, this type of fraud may go undetected until you notice a drop in your credit score.
The easiest way to see if someone has opened an account in your name is to request free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com for each of the three major reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You’re entitled to one free report from each of the agencies annually.
4. Replace lost or stolen cards
If you lose your credit or debit card, don’t panic. Call the card issuer and let a representative know what happened. Typically, the issuer will be able to close that account and put a new card in the mail the same day. While it’s a burden to be without your cards for a week or two, this step is essential to stopping fraudulent activity on a missing card. OnPoint can even replace your debit card the same day at your local branch, or you can opt to have a rush delivery for your replacement debit or credit cards.
5. Place fraud alerts on affected accounts
Once you’ve taken immediate action to reverse any fraudulent activity, you should place a fraud alert on any impacted account. For instance, if a thief opened a line of credit in your name, you’ll want to tell each of the credit reporting agencies to place a 90-day alert on your accounts. This way, if someone tries to open another line of credit, the creditor will be alerted to take extra steps to verify your identity.
6. Consider credit monitoring and ID theft insurance services
When a data breach occurs and your information is exposed to fraudsters online, there’s a chance that your personal information may make it onto the dark web—a part of the internet that is only accessible through special software.
Typically, your financial institution can help you sign up for credit monitoring and ID Theft insurance services that use sophisticated technology to monitor the dark web for your information. Additionally, these services often offer reimbursement for stolen funds.
7. File a report with the federal trade commission
It’s always smart to document identity theft when it occurs. You can make a report with the FTC to help law enforcement recognize patterns of fraud. Using some simple online forms, you’ll need to explain what happened, then the FTC will generate a personalized recovery plan to help you undo any damage as quickly as possible. The FTC can provide progress tracking to make sure you complete every necessary task.
8. File a complaint with the authorities
Beyond the FTC, you should consider filing additional complaints with local, state and federal law enforcement. The FBI has an online portal where victims of identity theft can report internet crimes. You’ll need to provide your contact information as well as a description of the crime. This will automatically alert other authorities who may be able to help.
You may also want to consider making reports with the Internal Revenue Service and your local police department.
9. Update your account passwords
If one of your personal accounts is compromised, there’s an increased risk that your other accounts will be affected. Reduce this risk by changing your passwords and security questions. In fact, it’s a good idea to change each password at least once or twice a year—the closer to your personal information and assets an account is, the more frequently you should update your passwords. Likewise, you should take advantage of two-factor authentication when it’s available. These solutions send you a text message with a unique code when you or anyone else attempts to log into your account. It’s important to note that two-factor authentication adds enhanced security, but no method is 100% secure.
10. Ask For Help
Dealing with identity theft can be very time-consuming and complicated. If your personal funds were stolen, the issue can be even more nerve-wracking. Just remember that you have people on your side who can help you return to normal. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for assistance.
The best way to avoid the risk of identity theft is to educate yourself on potential scams. To learn more, check out our security center today.