If you think your identity has been stolen, act fast. There are steps you should immediately take that can limit the amount of damage to your finances and credit score.
Also visit the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft page.
Step 1: File a police report and alert the proper authorities to ensure all necessary steps are taken to limit your liability.
Step 2: Alert your credit card issuers and tell your bank
Credit cards are often the first and favorite target for identity theft. Whether your wallet has been stolen or hackers have snatched your credit card details, your personal information can be used immediately to make purchases and borrow cash against your credit limit. By closing these accounts, you prevent further financial damage in your name.
Call the customer service number on the back of your credit cards. If your wallet has been stolen, find the contact information on past bills or get a general number through an operator. (Consider saving in a secure location a list of the financial institutions you do business with, and their contact numbers.) The customer service representatives will close your current credit cards, and open new accounts with new card numbers. This can help ensure that you will not be responsible for any purchases made through identity theft.
Also, while you may not need to close your checking or savings accounts, contact your bank or financial institution and alert them of the identity theft. This allows the bank to monitor your account for suspicious activity.
Step 3: Alert a credit reporting agency
The three major credit reporting agencies maintain files on US credit consumers. Identity theft will affect your credit report and your credit score. If you contact one agency, that agency is required to notify the other two. Contact an agency and first request that a Fraud Alert be placed in your file. This will prevent additional accounts from being opened in your name for 90 days. Second, order your credit reports and review them for unexpected activity or accounts. Alerting these agencies will allow them to monitor your account closely for suspicious requests and to contact you when such requests are made.
Contact the agencies at the numbers below. Each can quickly assist your request to monitor your account for unusual activity.
Step 4: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC has an Identity Theft Report which you can use to help with the effects of identity theft. You can use it to help remove fraudulent information from your credit report; to stop companies from collecting debts that were incurred as a result of the theft; and to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report. To prevent future new accounts from being opened in your name. Visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Report page.
Contact the FTC through their toll-free hotline 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338) or you can file your complaint online.