What Happens After My Identity is Stolen?
Imagine waking up one morning to a letter from the IRS that said your taxes had been successfully filed, but you didn’t file them. Or a notification from your credit monitoring service that you had a new line of credit open, but you weren’t the one that opened it. These and similar situations are what 14.4 million victims of identity theft experienced in 2018. While this is less than the 16.7 million who were targeted in 2017, it’s still an alarming number.
New account fraud, in which the fraudster opens a new mortgage, student loan, car loan, or credit card accounts under the victim’s name increased from $3 billion worth of losses to $3.4 billion last year.
Perhaps even scarier, mobile phone account takeovers almost doubled, from 380K in 2017 to 679K in 2018. When account takeover happens, the scammer can purchase new devices, open new phone number lines, and charge transactions to your account, leaving you holding the bill.
The same study also notes that 23% of people had unreimbursed personal expenses following the event. Your time, money, resources, and peace-of-mind are at risk of being stolen… So, what happens after the worst case scenario?
Reclaiming Your Identity and Security
After you receive notification of identity theft, either through your own observations or a message from your credit monitoring service, you have a lot of work to do. The haster and more thoroughly that you attack the problem, the more likely you are to get your peace of mind back in a timely manner.
Contact all banks and credit card accounts.
Fraudulent charges made to credit cards are protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act, so you’re only ever on the hook for a maximum of $50 of liability. With your debit card, however, you have to act fast. If you call to report your card stolen before a charge has been made, you are protected under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act in full.
If a charge has already been made, you only have 2 businesses days after notification of the charge to limit your liability to $50.
Waiting two to 60 days bumps that liability up to $500. You’ll also need to file an identify theft report and a police report, both of which should be shared with your banks and credit card companies.
Check all of your utility and phone accounts for identity fraud.
Fraudsters can open up new accounts, which affect your credit if left unpaid. If a scammer has stolen your wallet and broken into your home or vehicle, they could easily gain access to a utility bill in your name. This bill can be used to open an account in your name without your knowledge… Until you get charged for it.
Notify the Office of the Inspector General.
Let them know that your social security number has been used for fraudulent purposes, the Department of Motor Vehicles to flag your driver’s license number, and your local passport agency to apply for a replacement, as need dictates.
Change all your passwords and bump up your security.
Good password policies include not using the same code on multiple accounts, using a mixture of letters and numbers, and avoiding obvious passwords based on identifying information.
Contact all three credit reporting bureaus.
They can have any new accounts opened fraudulently wiped from your credit report. You should include a copy of the police report and identity theft report that you filed. If you do so in a timely manner, you shouldn’t be contacted to pay any debts linked to the breach.
Freeze your credit and all credit cards
At least until they are replaced with new numbers and accounts. No creditor will be able to open new accounts in your name and no person can use your cards until you decide to lift the freeze. The credit accounts will have to be done for each card, but a full credit freeze can be accomplished by contacting the three credit bureaus and requiesting it. It’s completely free, and you can leave it frozen for as long as you want.
Identify theft is no joke. It interrupts your peace of mind and puts victims in a vulnerable position. If the worst case scenario does happen, acting quickly is your best bet at getting your life back on track after a scam.