Identity theft can be devastating to experience, and the process of recovery can be time consuming. There’s a lot to be considered as your repair the damage and you don’t want to leave any potential openings for further fraud. Here is a guide to help you explore and understand the recovery process.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s identity to commit or complete fraudulent or criminal activity. This can include financial charges, loans or lines of credit, taxes, ID theft, and much more – meaning that your financial accounts can be emptied, new accounts can be opened, tax refunds filed, or even health treatments accessed on your health insurance. This can happen to adults as well as children. Personal information is often attained through data breaches or the theft of documents, IDs, or information both in person or online. The victim of the identity theft is then left to deal with the fallout and repair of the damages sustained during the theft.
Warning Signs of Identity Theft
There are some warning signs that can help you identify if you’ve become a victim of identity theft. Some warning signs are as simple as receiving a notice of a data breach, but others may take a little more digging and regularly observation to stay aware.
If you find that you have strange transactions or charges that you don’t remember making on your accounts, that is a major warning sign that something may be wrong. Similarly, take a look at your credit report at least once a year to make sure there aren’t any suspicious inquiries or fraudulent credit. Another sign is when you either don’t receive your bills or various pieces of mail, or that you receive bills for services that you didn’t utilize – particularly if they are medical bills. Finally, you may receive a notice from the IRS when filing your taxes that they have already been submitted or that your employer information does not match.
If you see these warning signs, you’ll need to take quick action. Recognizing these signs early can help minimize the damage that you sustain as you can put a stop to the fraud and begin the recovery process.
How to Recover from Identity Theft
Once you’ve identified warning signs that you may be a victim of identity theft, it’s time to start working on putting a stop to the theft and repairing the damage. Some actions will be done immediately and will be quick, while others may take some time and follow up to complete.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the very first step is to contact the companies where you know the fraudulent activity has occurred. Many companies have a fraud department set up to help with these types of situations and can help you through their process. They can also let you know if they require an official police report or the FTC Identity Theft Report – both reports that you should look into as a victim of theft. These reports can help validate your claims as you work with companies.
Next, you’ll need to close or freeze your accounts to prevent any further charges or action. When you do this, be sure to request the company send you a letter to confirm that this has been done and hold onto the letter – you may need it later as proof of the account closure. Then you’ll need to change any login information, passwords, PINS, or access information to prevent any further access to those accounts.
The next step is to place a fraud alert on your credit and request credit reports to verify if any inquiries or lines of credit were completed with your information. You can place a fraud alert or credit freeze with the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The fraud alert will add additional protection by requiring businesses and lenders to contact you directly before issuing any new credit in your name. A fraud alert is free and will expire after a year, when you can renew it if needed. Another option is to place an extended fraud alert on your account, which will last for 7 years but requires additional paperwork.
In contrast, a credit freeze prevents access to your credit and won’t allow any new credit to be opened in your name. If you do need to apply for credit, you’ll need to contact the bureau to temporarily unfreeze your credit. If this is an option you’d like to put in place, you’ll need to contact each bureau individually.
It will take some time, but you’ll then need to work on correcting your credit reports. You’ll need to write to each of the three bureaus to remove the fraudulent informant that is now on your credit report. With an FTC Identity Theft Report validating the theft, they will be required to honor your request and will remove the information from your report. You’ll also need to review and monitor your credit reports regularly to ensure everything has been resolved.
Repairing the Damage:
Once you’ve taken the immediate actions to help stop any further fraud, you’ll continue move through the process of repairing the damage. Keep track of all the fraud that you’ve experienced so you can ensure all the damage has been repaired and taken care of. This can include keeping a list of who you have contacted, when, and what actions were taken. The list can help you reference any previous conversations and keep track of who to contact and follow up with.
Depending on the fraud, you may also need to take additional steps to repair the damage. This can include replacing government issued IDs and contacting additional agencies regarding fraudulent taxes, child identity theft, or even clearing your name of criminal charges.
Preventing Identity Theft
If you have not been a victim of identity theft or may feel like your information could potentially be vulnerable to theft, there are steps you can take to prevent identity theft and be vigilant for any warning signs. The easiest way, and potentially a much more in-depth protection, is to utilize an identity protection service. These programs vary in pricing and products offered, so it’s important to shop around and find a program that you can trust.
Here at Wasatch Peaks, we offer our Benefits Plus® program, available with any of our checking accounts for just $6 a month. This program includes access to our Ultimate ID® Theft Protection, which includes credit monitoring from all 3 major credit bureaus and will keep you notified of any suspicious activity. It also includes black market, social media, and dark web monitoring to ensure your personal information has not been leaked.
Another amazing feature that is included in this protection is the recovery services that are provided to you in case something should happen. If you are notified of any suspicious or fraudulent activity, certified professionals are available to assist you in repairing the damages. Their guidance and knowledge can help you as you manage the recovery process during an already stressful time.
Identity theft can be devastating to experience, but over time you can work to repair and recover from the damage done. Be aware of the warning signs of potential identity theft and be diligent when it comes to the recovery process. Prevention and early intervention can both go a long way in helping prevent fraud and damage.