What to Do If You're a Victim of Identity Theft

Signs of Identity Theft
It’s not easy to pin down the moment your identity was hacked, but there are red flags to watch for. Common signals include unauthorized account activity on your statements, a sudden drop in your credit score, or missing mail.

For example, if you get paper financial statements or bills in the mail and they’re suddenly not showing up—or you’re not getting paper mail at all—that could be a sign that someone has changed your address and rerouted it somewhere. This type of fraud is on the rise.

Steps to Take After Identity Theft
If you realize you’ve become the victim of identity theft or fraud, it’s important to take action to avoid further damage to your financial accounts or to stop new ones from being created. Here’s what to do.

Contact your financial institutions
Immediately call your bank and other financial institutions where you have accounts and ask for the fraud department. Explain the situation and tell them you are a victim of identity theft. Ask the institution to place a fraud alert or freeze on your account. Also request new debit or credit cards.

It’s helpful to pull together evidence like account statements, transaction records, emails, or any documentation related to unauthorized transactions. But don’t put off calling if you don’t have this information at your fingertips. The fraud departments can advise you.

Dispute unauthorized transactions
While you’re talking to fraud department, dispute any unauthorized transactions that occurred. The fraud staff will guide you through the steps, which may involve filling out dispute forms and providing documentation. They can help you recover lost funds if they’re recoverable.

Request a fraud alert or freeze on your credit reports
Notify the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) about the identity theft. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report alerts creditors to take extra precautions, while a freeze prevents new accounts from being opened. Freezing your credit doesn’t keep you from using a credit card; it simply means you can’t open new accounts while it’s frozen.

Contact your local law enforcement
Reporting the identity theft to your local law enforcement agency may mean they provide you with a report or case number. That can be helpful in resolving the issue with creditors and banks.

Change passwords and PINs
Change your passwords and PINs for all your online and financial accounts, including email, banking, credit cards, and social media. Consider using a password manager like LastPass. Also Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.

File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Report online at IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338). Filing a report creates an official record of the theft.

Notify Social Security Administration
If your Social Security number was compromised, contact the SSA to report the theft. Learn more about Social Security fraud here.

Update your identification cards
If your driver's license or identification card was stolen, report it to the Department of Motor Vehicles and request a replacement with a new number.

Maintain a paper trail and follow up
Keep detailed records of all communications, reports, and actions you take regarding the identity theft. These records will help with any future disputes or investigations.

It’s also a good idea to send a follow-up letter to your creditor that summarizes the details of your conversation and the actions taken. Include any supporting documentation. Send this letter via certified mail with a return receipt to have a record of its delivery.

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