Stolen identity is a frightening experience, and it causes a lot of headaches and frustration. The trick is to stay protected whether you’re shopping online or simply giving out your credit card to a live cashier. If you’re already a victim of identity theft, here are a few tips and tricks for regaining your identity:
Understand Identity Theft
Identity theft is more than just a stolen credit card number. Many thieves are now using private information, such as your social security number, birthdate, and/or name to commit fraud, such as applying for loans or credit cards under your name. Approximately 9 million Americans are part of an identity scam, but most aren’t as extreme. Even mild cases of identity theft are difficult to resolve, but with the right support, financial experts can help.
Act Fast When Your Identity is Stolen
The first thing to do is contact each of the credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. They can put an alert on all of your open accounts, and can also freeze your social security number from any other accounts being opened or accessed. Next, utilize resources on the FTC website. Many of the forms available on this site will help expedite the process. Depending on the type of theft, you may choose to file a police report with your local precinct.
Keep Track of all Your Information
Next, close any fraudulent accounts and if there are suspicious charges on your own accounts, close them out too. You can do this by calling your banks, credit card companies, and any other businesses with which you have accounts. Keep detailed records of how much time you spend, because if the case ends up going to court, you can seek damages for these hours. Several months after the loss, obtain a credit report to make sure that all the fraudulent charges are gone. Once you complete these steps, your credit will return to its original status.
Learn to Prevent Future Identity Theft
You can also take preventive steps to avoid identity theft before it happens. One tip is to never carry your social security card. If you use a debit card, don’t keep the Personal Identification Number with it. Some experts recommend that you never use a debit card for online purchases. Since this links to your checking account, a thief can drain your bank account in just a few transactions. A credit card is much more secure, since it’s much easier to reverse a charge and issue a credit instead of trying to replace stolen money. Be cautious when using websites to shop, and make sure they have valid security and encryption.
Use Tools That Help
If you receive credit card applications, bank statements, or other personal documents by mail, make sure to shred them instead of tossing them in the trash. Keep careful track of your credit card and bank statements, and report any unauthorized activity immediately. Another great tool is LifeLock id protection, which helps monitor your patterns and alert you of any changes in spending.
With so many resources, identity theft becomes more manageable, and those affected can resolve the problems and return to financial freedom.