March 6th, 2013

What to do if You’re a Victim of Identity Theft

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what to do if you're a victim of identity theft

Up to this point, all of our National Consumer Protection Week blog posts here at the Credit Karma Blog have covered ways to help protect you. First, we mentioned some ways to keep your money safe. Then, we discussed how to spot and avoid credit repair scams. Finally, we shared some good ways to protect your credit.

This post is going to be a little different. And we sincerely hope you won’t need to read it, because today we’re going to talk about what to do if you’re a victim of identity theft.

If you’re experiencing identity theft, the best advice we can give is to work quickly. The quicker you work to remedy the situation, the better.

It’s possible your identity has been stolen and you don’t even know about it. So we’re first going to go over some ways to tell if you’re a victim of identity theft. Then, we’ll discuss the steps you need to take to prevent further abuse.

How to Tell if You’re a Victim of Identity Theft

There are usually some telltale warning signs that your identity has been stolen. Watch out for the following red flags:

  • You see new accounts that you don’t recognize on your credit report. Thieves often will try to apply for credit in your name. When they do, those new accounts will show up on your credit report.
  • You receive calls from collection agencies about loans you don’t know about. After these thieves open up new accounts and “you” fail to pay off those loans, they are sold to collection agencies who will try to collect the unpaid money from you.
  • You spot unexplained withdrawals and charges on your statements. If your money is mysteriously disappearing or you are being charged for items that you’re not buying, it’s possible thieves are taking money from your account or making purchases using your credit cards.
  • You aren’t receiving your bills, statements, or other important mail. Sometimes, thieves will call up your bank, credit card company, or lender to change your mailing address so you won’t find out about the unexplained withdrawals and charges on your statements.

What to do if You’re a Victim of Identity Theft

As mentioned before, the best thing you can do in this situation is to act quickly to prevent further abuse by identity thieves. Follow these steps as soon as possible:

  1. Place a fraud alert on your credit report. Fraud alerts are basically flags that tell creditors to contact you before any new accounts are opened in your name or any changes are made to your existing accounts. Contact one of the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and tell them you’d like to put a fraud alert on your report. Once you contact one of the bureaus, they are obligated to contact the other two bureaus to place the alert on your file.You can contact the bureaus here:
    • Equifax: Online or by calling 1-800-525-6285
    • Experian: Online or by calling 1-888-397-3742
    • TransUnion: By calling 1-800-680-7289
  2. Close all fraudulent accounts. Scrutinize your credit reports and cancel all fraudulent accounts by speaking with someone in the security or fraud department of each company where a fraudulent account was opened in your name. Write down the names of the people you spoke to and follow up with them in writing (via certified mail) so that there is a written record for your file. Be sure to ask for written confirmation that the accounts have been closed.
  3. File a police report. Not only will this help the police hunt down the perpetrator, but this will also come in handy when working with the credit reporting agencies and creditors to improve your credit health again. In addition, it’ll serve as proof that a crime has been committed against you.
  4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Filing a report with the FTC helps the government track and respond to identity thievery. You can contact them at 1-877-439-4388 or online here.

Bottom Line: Identity theft is a terrible crime that causes considerable stress, time, and financial trouble to more than 12 million Americans a year. Don’t let it happen to you! Take steps to protect your credit and you should be fine.

Want more information? Check out the NCPW Consumer Topics. And check out the other NCPW posts we’ve written for more on how to protect yourself.

Jenna

helps manage the social media channels and blog at Credit Karma. Although her specialty lies in creating witty post-it notes, she also enjoys sharing all the financial information she’s learned since joining Credit Karma in February 2012. When she’s not working, you can probably find her trying out a new dessert recipe or learning/perfecting any musical instrument she can get her hands on. She may or may not have created a Twitter specifically to put in this byline. Say “hi” @leejennaa!

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8 Comments

  1. Identity theft is incredibly scary. I once went online to check my bank statement and found a very small (just a few dollars) withdraw from an online game site I’d never seen or heard of. I immediately cancelled my debit cards, etc. I can’t help but wonder if I just so happened to spot the “test” run of my account information before someone was able to really get to work on my money and identity!

    Dona Collins at 7:11 am on March 7, 2013
  2. for yrs now i’ve been through hell!i lost my Backpack on the bus.someone picked it up and that was all .i was living in swampscott Mass.i filed a police report,then come to find out the person lived in haverhill mass.called the police in that area.and they told me they wasn’t going to help me.ok so now all kinds of bills are piling up.this person opened up a morgage,car loan,cell phone accounts in my name.now these or person is living in danvers mass.in a house that is in my name.can someone please help me?i tried to call lifelock but they want money to help me.to which i don’t have.i have children that i can’t even help?because of my situation!

    Tyrone Myers

    TyroneMyers at 4:08 pm on May 14, 2013
  3. “He’s crazy” is absolutely a cop-out, and I think most people would agree. It’s also a defense used by legal teams, and I think that’s part of the reason it comes up in discussions.

    crime compensation at 10:16 pm on August 6, 2013
  4. Checking your credit card history daily is another great way to spot identity theft before it gets out of hand. I check bank account and credit card history at least once a day. If I see anything I don’t recognize, I call immediately.

    Lisa researching identity theft at 6:42 pm on February 22, 2014

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