Unfortunately, identity theft impacts many people each day. Because of the potential resulting damage, if you become a fraud victim, it’s essential to take swift action to get the situation under control. While this may take a few steps, you must do what is necessary to minimize fraud’s harmful effects.
If another person obtains your personal information, or if your private data is exposed in a data breach, you should go right to work to protect your identity. When criminals have your personal information in hand, they can open fraudulent credit accounts under your name and potentially damage your credit history.
Here are some steps you can take if you do become a victim of fraud:
1. Report the Fraud
Make sure you immediately report any fraud you notice. File a police report first, and then contact the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) to file a fraud report with them as well.
2. Obtain a Free Copy of Your Credit Reports
After you file a fraud report with all three credit bureaus, you'll want to get your free credit report copy from each of the agencies. Thoroughly go through your credit reports and review if and how the fraud impacted your credit.
3. Place a Security Freeze on Your Credit Reports
When you place a security freeze on your credit reports, it prevents lenders and other entities from accessing your credit reports entirely. So, if the fraudster is trying to obtain credit in your name, this will keep the financial institutions from extending that credit.
4. Report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Contact the FTC ( www.identitytheft.gov ) to report the identity theft. Once you do this, you will receive an Identity Theft Report that proves your identity was stolen.
5. Review Your Accounts
You must review all your credit cards and accounts to see exactly what was impacted. Review your statements carefully, making note of any charges or discrepancies you didn't make. After that, contact all financial companies associated with each of your accounts and cards impacted to let them know you're a victim of fraud.
6. Close Accounts or Obtain New Cards
Make any necessary changes, such as resetting passwords and logins or closing accounts. It may be a good idea to obtain new credit cards. Even if your credit cards show no suspicious activity, it may be months before fraudsters attempt to use your card numbers if your information was taken in a data breach. Being proactive and replacing credit cards is good practice.
7. Create a Fraud Alert
You may wish to consider a fraud alert. The three credit bureaus keep a record of all your credit history. If a person misuses your personal data, or if you're worried about becoming a victim of identity theft, but it hasn't actually happened, you can still place a fraud alert. For instance, you might wish to add a fraud alert to your credit if certain things got stolen, such as your:
- Social security card
- Other financial, personal, or account information
You also might want to place a fraud alert if your personal data was exposed during a data breach. It's free to place a fraud alert. You only need to contact one credit bureau, and they'll contact the other two about your alert.
Fraud alerts make it more difficult for thieves to open other accounts in your name. When placing a fraud alert on your report, businesses need to verify your identity before issuing credit. They might try and contact you. The fraud alert will stay on your report for a year. After a year, you can obtain a new one if you wish.
We’re Here to Help!
Your account security is a priority for us. If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft or fraud or have questions on reporting suspicious activity on your accounts, give us a call immediately at 202-479-2270. We are here to help walk you through the process and limit the negative effects of fraud.