Note: We receive a commission for purchases made through the links on this site. Our sponsors, however, do not influence our editorial content in any way.
You hope that it will never happen to you, but the fact of the matter is that identity theft happens every day. During the 2017 data breach at Experian, hackers gained access to the private information of more than 145 million people. Since identity theft has become so common, it’s important to know the right way to respond when you become a target.
First, you want to make sure that you close access to your financial accounts. You can do this by contacting all of the financial institutions that you use, including the banks that manage your credit cards and debit cards. You may also want to contact PayPal or other online financial services that you use to make them aware of the situation.
When you file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency will send you a recovery plan and documents that you can use to dispute fraudulent charges. Contacting the FTC also starts a paper trail that you can use as evidence that someone stole your identity.
Contact the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to have a fraud alert placed on your credit reports. Fraud alerts are free and last 90 days. During this time, anyone who checks your credit history will learn that your account has been compromised. Companies, therefore, can take additional steps to verify your identity. Those extra steps can prevent criminals from opening more accounts in your name.
It can take months or even years to recover from identity theft. After you’ve gone through the inconvenience and stress of contacting so many financial institutions, you may want to protect yourself from future attempts by signing up for an identity theft protection service.
A company like LifeLock will review your accounts regularly to find questionable activity and report aberrations to your financial institutions.
You may also want to add a layer of security to your internet use by signing up for services like Net Nanny, Kaspersky Safe Kids or Norton Parental Control.
Identity theft can happen to anyone, so it makes sense to prepare yourself for the worst. Knowing how to respond to identity theft won’t make the problem disappear, but it will help you take the right steps towards protecting yourself.