Even the most meticulously careful person in the world can have their identity stolen, either by an organization or by brazen criminals. Motivated hackers can find their way through any system, these days, so you can’t even really trust major organizations like banks to care for your data anymore.
The better option? Assume it will happen someday, and prepare now so you know what to do once it happens.
Contact Your Banks
Keep the thief away from your money by notifying your banks that your identity is compromised immediately. They’ll most likely freeze your accounts, which can be a pain, but they can also track any suspicious purchases made under your name. You should be able to reverse any withdraws or charges you didn’t personally make.
Get Copies of Credit Reports and Freeze Them
The “big three” Credit Reporting Agencies (CRA), including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, can help you monitor your credit for signs of fraud. You can, and should, notify them immediately if you suspect your identity has been compromised.
Ask for copies of your credit reports when you’re notifying a CRA about identity theft. Having backups will help tremendously when you’re attempting to undo the damage caused by this fraud. The CRA can also freeze your credit reports indefinitely to prevent the fraudster from taking out loans or opening new credit lines without your consent.
Report to the Federal Trade Commission
Fill out an identity theft form for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to process. It’ll be used as confirmation that something is wrong and give you more power to get your identity back under control. You’ll need this identity theft report to further secure your accounts and credit information.
Request Documents Proving Fraudulent Activity
The more hard proof you can find about identity theft the better. You can ask your creditors for documentation of any activity on your account, including statements, transactions, and payments made under your name. Request this information in writing to ensure you create a paper trail. Be aware that you might need to provide your ID, a police report, an FTC identity theft report, or other information to prove you are who you say you are, especially if you’re claiming identity theft.
Alert the IRS
Your tax information is a gold mine to some thieves. Not only do those records contain nearly all of your personal info, the perpetrator could theoretically file taxes in your name. If the IRS contacts you about any fraudulent activity, respond as soon as possible. Failing to do so could leave you on the hook.
Notify the DMV, and Your Healthcare Providers
Identity thieves can easily turn your drivers license against you and make a fake ID to use at traffic stops, stores, and service providers. The same goes for your medical information — criminals rack up your medical bills through prescription drugs and medical services in your name. By notifying both the DMV and your healthcare team, you can help ensure that doesn’t happen.
Clean Up Your Accounts
Clean up your existing accounts or make brand new ones. Contact utility companies, subscription service companies, and any other entity with your personal information. Create new, complicated passwords and change them once or twice per year. Ask service providers to close your accounts or issue you new account numbers, if possible.
Taking back your identity is an arduous process, but it all hinges around timeliness. Immediately contact all entities on this list and freeze whatever accounts you can to prevent any further damage from occurring. You can only regain control of your life when you completely shut out the identity thief’s access to your information.