By Robert Henderson, Special to THELAW.TV
As identity thieves continually develop new ways to invade personal lives, potential victims need to recognize signs of threats and know how to remedy a stolen identity situation. A 2013 Identity Fraud Report by Javelin Strategy & Research found 12.6 million people were victims of identity fraud in 2012 -- that's one victim every three seconds. While prevention is the first part of identity theft protection, sometimes you end up becoming the victim.
Your Identity's Been Stolen
The most common identity theft alert is receiving a call from your bank or credit card company stating suspicious transactions on your account have been recognized. The bank will want to verify what purchases you've made recently and may need to cancel your cards. If money was stolen from your account, it can take a couple weeks to get reimbursed. You'll also receive notification from companies that have had their security breached if you've done business with them. You'll want to make sure any business you conducted with the company was secure and none of you information was compromised. Alternatively, you may notice irregularities on your credit reports, or suspect data has been physically compromised.
Physically compromised data is if your wallet's been stolen or you notice mail has been taken from the mailbox. If you suspect you information has been physically compromised, you may want to cancel cards and alert your bank, even if you're unsure.
Now For Damage Control
- Notify all of the companies that you conduct business with and explain that you're a victim of identity theft. Therefore they're not liable for fraudulent transactions. You may not even be aware of how many of your accounts have been compromised. All banks and credit card companies offer 24-hour fraud report lines through which consumers can report suspicions. Bank of America recommends consumers always call their banking or credit institutions before doing anything else. Call every institution you bank with or conduct business with, even if you don't see any evident fraudulent behavior. Alerting all these institutions will protect you.
- Request new debit and credit cards with different numbers while speaking with the fraud line. No further transactions will be added to the account while the fraud is under investigation. Also, change the passwords to all online accounts, including the passwords for email addresses. If fraud has caused any non-sufficient funds charges or other associated fees, make sure these are immediately removed to avoid confusion later.
- File a complaint with the local police department after banking and credit institutions have been notified. This helps the person who committed the fraud get caught. Many companies will also request that you file a complaint and send it to them before they can clear larger fraudulent transactions. Companies will be assured you're not claiming legitimate transactions as fraudulent ones to avoid payment.
- Make sure that your credit report is frozen through a major credit reporting bureau. This will automate the process of monitoring the consumer's credit report and make sure new accounts are not opened up without the consumer's expressed consent. Identity theft can be catastrophic to your credit history if not handled immediately and properly. Also, make sure to check every bank and credit statement for any unusual activity.
Once you've cleaned up your identity theft disaster, prevent it from happening again with a 5-points protection plan, recommended by the LifeLock identity theft experts. By establishing a solid prevention plan, you can safeguard your confidential information with superior monitoring, scanning, threat response, service guarantees and credit score tracking.
The author, Robert Henderson, is a legal assistant in Plano, Texas.