Tips for Responding to Identity Theft


Identity theft became a financial crisis for over 12 million consumers last year. It seems no matter how tight the security, thieves stay one step ahead of the game. They hack into corporate websites, personal accounts and steal numbers while you make a purchase. Regardless of how it happens, there are a few tips to minimize the damage and reduce the time it takes to correct the problem.

Cancel Your Account

The financial institution issuing the credit card or maintaining the account is your first phone call. They will freeze the account, review purchases to identify unauthorized transactions, and walk you through their investigative process. Banks have large fraud departments that follow up on incidents and get your account back in order. It is standard procedure to close an affected account and open a new one.

Audit All Your Accounts

It may be that a thief obtained one or multiple accounts. You should closely review each statement for several months before and after the noticed discrepancy to ensure you are not held liable for unauthorized purchases. Include unused or inactive accounts in your search as thieves do not discriminate.

Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian

Sometimes identity theft involves charges to an open account. Other times it involves opening accounts you did not authorize. A check of your credit report will identify any approved applications for credit you have not authorized. When identity theft occurs you have a right to a free credit report, even if you have already viewed your report in the previous twelve months.

Notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 

Identity theft ranks among the highest number of complaints with the FTC. They deal with incidents involving more than one account or the theft of social security numbers. They have teams which investigate cases and work with authorities to catch and stop criminals.

Call the Police in the Jurisdiction of the Theft

Filing a police report helps track incidents of theft and gives you access to help. The free credit report is contingent on having a police report to document what happened. This document also aids banks and financial institutions which investigate cases of fraud.

Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report

You may contact one credit bureau and place a fraud alert on the account for 90 days. They will then contact the other two bureaus giving you additional protection on your credit. This action does not prevent an application from being approved but requires additional steps by the potential creditor to ensure you are the one applying for credit. With a police report, you can file an extended fraud alert beyond the initial 90 days.