Your Identity Has Been Stolen: What to Do First

What to Do First After Identity Fraud

It can be an overwhelming feeling when you find out your identity has been stolen. You fear the worst, but don’t know where to start. There may be a lot of work to be done to clean it up, but the first things you should do are take steps to stop new fraud from occurring. 

Here are five things you should do immediately after you discover you have been a victim of identity theft:

1.     Put a Fraud Alert on your credit reports. According to FTC Guide Taking Charge: What to Do if Your Identit­­y is Stolen, the very first thing you need to do is get a fraud alert placed on your credit report. This lasts for 90 days and will require banks or companies to contact you personally before opening new accounts or credit. You must call one of the three credit bureaus to report the crime, and that bureau is responsible for alerting the other agencies.
2.     Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. You can report the crime to the FTC through an online form. During the reporting process, the FTC will help you create a customized recovery plan. You will also be given an ID theft affidavit.  
3.     File a report with your local police. According to USA.gov, you may need a police report, as well as the FTC report, to report the fraud to any financial institutions where you have an account. Bring your FTC ID theft affidavit with you to file the report. Although the police may not solve the case, it is still important to create a record of the crime to potentially help local authorities become aware of any larger problems in the area.
4.     Request your credit report and review for errors. You are entitled to a free credit report after an identity theft. Request your credit report from all three credit bureaus and carefully review the reports for any new accounts or lines of credit that you did not open. US News & World Report recommends checking any accounts that are dormant or that you are not currently using for new charges.
5.     Contact the banks and companies where the thief opened accounts. If you find fraudulent activity, immediately contact the company and request the account(s) be locked or closed.

Time is important when it comes to identity theft. Prioritize these five steps to help prevent any additional fraudulent accounts being opened. By quickly taking action to contain the damage, you can then begin the process of removing any blemishes from the crime from your credit history.