New technology and an ever-connected world give us access to almost unlimited information at our fingertips. Unfortunately, this also gives cybercriminals access to our sensitive personal information. In 2017, there were a reported 16.7 million victims of identity theft.
The most important factor if you think your identity has been compromised is to act fast. The sooner you report fraud and freeze your accounts, the less damage an identity thief can cause. If you’re worried your identity may have been stolen, or want to be prepared in case you experience identity theft, follow these steps to protect your credit and data from further harm.
1. Locate and Freeze Affected Accounts
Identity theft can affect a large number of accounts and information. From stolen credit card numbers to falsified tax returns, identity thieves use many different ways to gain access to your information and use your credit or your money. The first step to stopping an identity thief is to find out which account or accounts are affected.
Many banks and credit card companies offer fraud identification services at no extra charge to alert you to suspicious activity on your accounts. It’s not uncommon for someone to learn their identity has been stolen because of an alert from a financial institution. Comb through your credit card statements, bank statements and other important financial documents for fraudulent charges.
When you find the account or accounts with fraudulent activity, make sure you put a freeze on the account right away. An account freeze stops thieves from being able to use the account and can help protect the data of your other accounts.
2. Check Your Credit Report
Once you’ve located which accounts you think are affected, check your credit report and file a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies. You can find contact information for the credit reporting agencies conveniently from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). After your credit information has been flagged with a fraud alert, you will automatically be denied for preapproved credit cards or insurance offers. This reduces the chance that an identity thief can open an account in your name.
Ordering a credit report also lets you check for any new accounts, loans or policies that may have been opened using your identity before you knew it was stolen. If you do see new accounts or loans on your credit report, immediately contact the companies where those accounts were opened and report them as fraudulent. Additionally, check for inaccurate addresses, employers and any other personal information that is not correct.
3. Contact Your Financial Institutions, Creditors and Insurance Representative
You’ve frozen your affected accounts and alerted the credit bureaus to your suspected fraud. Next, you will want to contact your financial institutions, creditors and insurance representative to alert them that your identity has been stolen. Many banks and creditors will allow you to put freezes on your accounts even if they were not affected by the theft. Additionally, by letting these institutions know that you have had your identity stolen, you add another layer of protection to your identity. These institutions, knowing someone may try to open an account or use your existing accounts, will likely keep a closer eye on your information to prevent further damage.
4. Notify the Proper Authorities
After you’ve been the victim of identity theft, be sure to report the theft with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your local police department. The FTC offers an easy online portal for reporting identity theft. This website also provides consumers with a wealth of knowledge on identifying and preventing identity theft. You will receive an actionable plan form the FTC after you file your report.
In addition to the FTC, contact your local police department as well as any local police departments where the fraud occurred, if available. For example, if your identity was stolen and your credit card was used at a gas station in a different state. Your credit card provider should be able to tell you the exact location where your credit card was used. You can use that information to contact the local police department in that area.
5. Change Your Passwords or Open New Accounts
When you’ve completed the steps to freeze your accounts and alert authorities, it’s usually a good idea to change your passwords across your various accounts. In addition to changing passwords for online banking or credit card logins, you should consider changing passwords for social media sites like Facebook and email accounts such as Gmail or Outlook. This small step helps protect any data that the identity thief had not yet accessed.
For more serious cases of identity theft, you may want to close your existing bank accounts or credit cards and open a new account once your credit has been unfrozen. A new account may help you rebuild any credit that was hurt by the identity thief. Speak with your financial institutions to decide if this is a good idea for your situation.
6. Contact Other Providers
The final step to cleaning up after an identity thief is to contact other service providers and letting them know of your identity theft. This can range from your cell phone provider to the electric company. If an identity thief tries to open a new account or loan in your name, they may try to use a utility bill as a proof of residence. Alerting your service providers that your identity has been compromised helps limit the chance that a new unauthorized account can be opened.
Stay Ahead of Identity Thieves
Identity theft is, unfortunately, a reality of a connected world. Luckily, you can help prevent identity theft before it happens using an identity theft monitoring service. Wawanesa automatically includes Identity Theft Management ServicesSM for homeowners, renters and condominium policyholders. Much like protecting your physical belongings with insurance, it’s important to protect your data from thieves.
This complimentary service not only helps monitor your accounts for fraudulent activity and gives you the resources you need to get back on your feet after experiencing identity theft. Additionally, we provide you with information about the latest identity theft scams to help you stay aware and ahead of identity thieves.
Contact your representative or give us a call at 1-800-640-2920 to learn more about our identity theft protection services.