My Identity Was Stolen…Now What?
In this digital age, identity theft can happen to anyone despite your best efforts to prevent it. If you’ve been in the unfortunate situation where your personal information has been stolen, you know how violating and frustrating it can be.
The good news is there are things you can do to clean up the mess, especially if you detect the fraudulent behavior early. If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft, the experts at McHenry Savings Bank suggest the following tips to get back on track:
- Report the identity theft. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report your identity theft. Complete the online form or call 877-438-4338 and provide detailed information. Once the report is filed, you’ll receive an FTC recovery plan and an Identity Theft Report. The latter serves as proof that your identity was stolen. After you’ve filed with the FTC, report the incident to your local police department. By filing a police report, you protect yourself from additional damages from identity fraud and/or theft. Keep both of these reports in a secure place in the event you need to access them at a later date.
- Contact your financial institution and creditors. If you believe your accounts have been compromised, it’s in your best interest to report the incident(s) as soon as possible. A majority of credit cards have protections in place for identity theft, including zero-liability policies. The Fair Credit Billing Act also protects consumers in this situation, with a $50 maximum liability for any unauthorized charges. However, if your debit card is compromised, there is only a 1-2 day window to report unauthorized charges. Once reported, you are not liable for any charges after that date. A copy of your filed police and identity theft report should also be shared with your creditors.
- File a fraud alert on your credit report. If you are not 100% sure you’ve been a victim of identity theft, placing a fraud alert on your credit report can give you peace of mind. You can request a fraud alert by contacting one of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion), which will, in turn, put the alert on all three of your credit reporting files. The alert will stay on your reports for one year and can be renewed annually.
- Review credit reports. If you set up a fraud alert, each of the three credit reporting agencies will grant access to your free credit report. Review the reports for any fraudulent activity, including unknown inquiries, new accounts you didn’t open, and incorrect personal information. If you noticed fraudulent or incorrect information on your report, contact the credit bureaus to have that information removed. The FTC has a sample letter you can use on their website. When you send the letter, also include a copy of your Identity Theft Report as well as details about the fraudulent information. As a consumer, you are entitled to an annual free credit report, so use this opportunity to review your report and protect your identity
- Freeze your credit. Placing a freeze on your credit and putting a lockdown on all your information, can prevent the release of your credit report to new creditors. Freezing your report is free and can be requested by contacting the credit bureaus. Additionally, you determine when the freeze is lifted, putting you in control of your credit information.
- Change passwords. This should not only be done on the affected accounts but ALL your accounts. When creating passwords, choose unique alphanumeric combinations and avoid using personal information (i.e. address, date of birth) and using the same password across accounts. Its best practice to change your passwords every three months.
- Replace stolen identification. Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles to report your stolen license and get it replaced. If your Social Security card was stolen, it can be replaced online. In the event your Social Security number was used fraudulently, notify the Office of the Inspector General to request a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement. (Note: Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet).
Having your information stolen can leave you shaken, that is why you should turn to the experts who work hard to earn your trust. McHenry Savings Bank (MSB) offers security resources that include a “Taking Charge: What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen” guide to answer those tough questions and assist you in the recovery process. Visit MSB today or call 815-385-3000.