What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen
In 2016, there were 15.4 million cases of identity theft from U.S. consumers. About that $16 billion was stolen according to a Javelin Strategy & Research report. This is up from 13.1 million reported thefts totaling $15.3 billion during the prior year. Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, seven percent of U.S. residents aged 16 or older, were victims of identity theft in 2014.
Identity theft is fraudulent acquisition and use of a company’s or person’s private information, like drivers’ license number, birthdate, bank account or other. The stolen information is used for financial gain like paying for purchases, opening bank accounts, take lines of credit, or opening credit cards.
Identity theft is on the rise. Most people know someone who has had at one or more credit card stolen. The average consumer should have a working knowledge of what to do in case their identity or credit card is stolen.
What Do I Do If My Identity is Stolen?
Contact the organization with which the fraudulent transaction occurred. If you noticed erroneous charges on your bank statement, then contact your bank. If there are unauthorized charges on your credit card bill, then contact the credit card issuer. If your credit card was stolen, then destroy that card and have your credit card company issue you a new one with a new number. If your bank account information was stolen, then close the account.
For other identity theft situations like utility companies, medical bills, contracts, contact each one and explain the situation. Be sure to follow up with a letter and any other information they require. If someone is misusing your social security number, to file for benefits for example, then contact your local social security office.
Contact All Three Credit Bureaus
Call each bureau for instructions on how to handle the fraudulent charges. Be sure to send each one letter as well. The contact information for each credit bureau is:
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
If your identification was stolen – driver’s license, Passport, credit card, or social security card – contact the issuing agency and have it replaced. Be sure to report the loss too.
Do I Need to Notify the Police in the Event of Identity Theft?
You may have to file a police report to clear the debts from your name.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) operates a website that details what to do in case of identity theft. It includes information on how to report the crime as well as a step-by-step recovery plan. The FTC identity theft website has sample letters to send to creditors. It also has an official Identity Theft Report to file to claim the loss. This report can be sent to creditors as well.
Keep a copy of all letters. Consider subscribing to an identity theft protection service. This way you will get notified if there is suspicious activity or new accounts opened in your name.