As fraudsters and cyber criminals become increasingly savvy, cases of identity fraud have been on the rise. In 2020 alone, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 1.4 million reports of identity theft, almost double the number in 2019.¹
If your identity is compromised, getting the support of an identity restoration specialist can make a stressful situation much smoother.
But if you’re working on your own to restore a stolen identity, we recommend breaking down the process into bite-sized steps to make all of it more manageable. Read on to learn what to do if your identity is stolen.
Step 1: Contact Your Financial Institutions
Contact your bank, credit card issuers, and other financial institutions where your accounts may have been compromised. Let their fraud department know you’re dealing with a stolen identity.
Comb through your financial statements for charges you don’t recognize. You’ll likely need to close or freeze the accounts that have been affected by fraud, but discuss the best course of action with your financial institutions.
In addition to closing or freezing accounts, you’ll want to increase your account security by changing the passwords to all of your financial accounts. A strong password is at least 6 characters long, includes numbers, symbols, upper and lower case letters, does not include personal information (like your birthday), and is used for only one account.
A simple solution is to use a password manager that creates and stores strong passwords so you don’t need to remember or keep track of your passwords.
Step 2: Contact the Credit Reporting Agencies
Once you discover that identity theft has taken place, there are several things you can do to protect your credit score. Contact the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — and request that they place a fraud alert on your credit report. Or, you can have the identity restoration agent included in Identity Champion Protect and Complete plans help you make those calls.
A fraud alert is free and lasts for one year. Any institution that is asked to issue credit in your name will see the fraud alert on your credit report and will take steps to verify that it’s really you they’re interacting with, and not a fraudster.
You should also review your credit report for fraudulent information, and ask the credit bureaus to remove this information from your report. The FTC provides a sample letter to help you draft your request.
For the highest level of protection on your account, you can also contact each credit bureau to ask that they freeze your account, which blocks businesses from requesting your credit report. A credit freeze can take as long as a business day to take effect and up to an hour to “thaw.”
(For a faster option, Identity Champion’s Complete plan allows you to instantly lock and unlock your ExperianⓇ credit file with the click of a button in your online portal.)
Step 3: File Reports with Government Agencies
After an identity theft takes place, you’ll want to contact local and federal agencies.
You can report identity theft to the FTC at www.identitytheft.gov. The FTC will provide information about how to recover your identity as well as an Identity Theft Report which can be used as proof of identity theft, so be sure to save a digital copy.
Pro Tip: Store digital copies of sensitive documents in the secure cloud storage included with Identity Champion Protect and Complete.
Next, file a report with your local police department. Provide your Identity Theft Report from the FTC plus any evidence you have of the theft, such as overdue notices from financial accounts you didn’t open.
If your Social Security Number (SSN) was stolen, it could have been used for tax-related identity fraud, such as filing an income tax return in your name in order to receive a refund. Contact the IRS to confirm whether your SSN has been compromised.
Step 4: File an Identity Theft Insurance Claim
Identity theft insurance can help you guard against losses in the event that your identity is stolen. If you have identity theft insurance, you may be able to collect reimbursement for funds stolen from your financial accounts, as well as reimbursement for expenses incurred as a result of identity restoration.
You can sign up for identity theft insurance through Identity Champion’s Protect and Complete plans and many major insurance providers. Our identity theft insurance provides reimbursement starting at up to $200,000 for funds stolen from your financial accounts and up to $2 million for eligible expenses associated with restoring your identity — such as legal fees, lost wages, childcare costs, and more.²
Pro Tip: The occurrence of “repeat” identity theft is on the rise,⁴ with three out of 10 victims of identity fraud reporting they’ve been the target of more than one identity crime.5 Proactively monitor your identity for theft with an identity monitoring service — like Identity Champion! — which alerts you to suspicious activity that could be tied to identity fraud.
Recovering a stolen identity can take a significant amount of time and energy. Following these steps can help you organize your actions as you work to resolve your situation. However, you don’t have to go it alone. Learn how Identity Champion’s restoration specialists can help you every step of the way, or sign up here.