Identity theft can happen when a company you do business with suffers a data breach, or if you are the victim of an internet scam, or someone fraudulently uses your Social Security number.
Sometimes the evidence is clear: strange charges on your bank statement, bills for services you did not use or need, or a tax return you did not file. Other times it’s less obvious, such as missing bills.
If you suspect you’ve been hacked and that your identity may have been stolen, below are some steps you can take to protect yourself from further damage.
Contact Your Bank or Financial Institution
For many victims, unauthorized transactions on a bank account or credit card are their first heads-up.
The good news is most lenders won’t hold you liable for fraudulent charges as long as you immediately report them.
You can act fast by:
Some companies may require a written request. If so, use this sample letter as a guide.
Set Up a Free Fraud Alert
Next, you’ll want to contact at least one of the three major credit reporting agencies and ask them to place a fraud alert on your account. This means a lender is obligated to verify your identity before it issues new credit in your name.
These fraud alerts expire after a year, so it’s a good idea to add a renewal reminder to your calendar. And if you do notice fraudulent activity, you can call all three credit reporting agencies to ensure they’ve been alerted as soon as possible.
Their contact information is:
File an Identity Theft Report
Your identity theft report proves to businesses that someone stole your identity.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a government agency that will help you with a tailored recovery plan and documentation of your request and situation.
File a Police Report
Your last stop is the local police department. Here, you’ll want to bring:
Don’t forget to keep a record of theft-related calls and letters, the names of whoever you speak to, and notes on other actions you may take, such as closing accounts or disputing charges.
Though identity theft can be a frustrating experience, knowing and tapping into the restorative measures in place can protect you from further threats.
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