A 2016 study showed that identity fraud hit a record high with 15.4 million victims in the United States. Some of the most common types of identity theft include social security, financial, driver’s license, and medical. Older individuals may be particularly vulnerable to identity theft; scammers often persuade the elderly to provide personal information that they can use to steal their identities.
If you suspect someone has stolen your identity, it’s important to take action immediately. The consequences can be disastrous, but following these steps will help secure your information and prevent your credit from getting tarnished by someone else’s actions.
1) Contact the Bank or Creditor
When you see suspicious charges or withdrawals on an account, contact the bank or creditor immediately and tell them that the charges weren’t made by you. Follow up any verbal contact with a written communication that explains the issue.
2) File a Police Report
File a police report with the local police department and request a copy of the report.
3) File a Fraud Alert
When you see suspicious activity on your credit card or bank account, contact the three credit bureaus to put a fraud alert in place. A fraud alert will notify the bureaus that you’re a victim of identity theft and that any new accounts should not be opened until you are contacted directly.
A fraud alert is free and lasts 90 days.
4) Request Your Credit Report
Request a copy of your credit report and review the listings for accounts or entries that you don’t recognize. Send a blocking letter to the credit bureaus to note the items that don’t belong to you. You can also request that the bureaus block any new charges or entries that come to that particular account.
5) Contact the Federal Trade Commission
Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the identity theft. Send an Identity Theft Affidavit or call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 877-438-4338.
6) Keep Thorough Documentation
Keep an organized file of all information and correspondence about the identity theft. This should include a copy of the police report, your credit report, credit card statements, and any correspondence about the issue.
7) Protect Your Information
Minimize the risk of identity theft in the future.
- Keep your social security card in a safe space, not on your person.
- Shred documents that have personal information like your social security number, bank account number or PIN, and credit card number.
- Never provide personal information over the phone or online unless you have verified that the requesting party is legitimate.
- Use secure, complex passwords, don’t repeat passwords across websites, and don’t keep them written down. Use a password storing tool.
For more tips on identity theft and how to protect yourself, read this tip sheet from the National Consumer Law Center.