Identity theft can happen to anyone, anywhere, any time. Receiving that dreaded call or alert can swiftly send you into a fury, leaving you unsure how to proceed or regain control of your financial security. One thing is certain: your identity has been compromised and there is fraudulent activity on your account(s). Though the news can be overwhelming, there are several steps you must immediately take in order to protect yourself and your credit.
1. Place A Fraud Alert
Your first call to action should be contacting one of the three credit reporting bureaus, Experian, TransUnion or Equifax, to have a fraud alert placed on your credit report. By placing this alert on your account, businesses must first verify your identity before extending any line of credit in your name. The report will remain on your credit report for 90 days, and you'll be provided with one free credit report from each of the reporting companies.
Quick Tip: Take the time to educate yourself on the topic. Identity theft is a complex landscape and the best way to stay out of trouble is to remain informed. You can easily implement several basic preventive steps into your regular routine by strengthening your passwords, shredding sensitive documents, checking website and URL authenticity and reviewing website privacy terms or policies.
2. Cancel Your Cards
The next step is canceling your cards. This extends from debit or personal checking accounts to credit cards. It can often be hard to determine exactly how the breach occurred, and there are cases where individual debit and credit card numbers were obtained and distributed. Once you've contacted your bank, they will continue to monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity. Drop by your neighborhood branch and snag a temporary card to use in the interim.
3. Contact Your Local Authorities
Reach out to your local authorities and provide them with details of the fraud. Include information such as specific charges and dollar amounts, where the fraud occurred, dates the charges were made, and how your identity (if you're aware) was compromised.
4. Order A Free Credit Report
Obtaining a copy of your credit report is important not just from a security standpoint, your credit score and report can also affect mortgage rates, credit approvals and rental or job applications. By ordering a free report annually, you're in a position to catch any suspicious activity and keep an eye on your credit score.
5. Protect Your Information
Expand your security precautions to all the digital areas of your life, including your laptop, tablet or any cloud storage space. Consider equipping your digital accessories with firewall and spyware software programs. Never provide your personal bank information or social security number via email or text. Take the extra step by employing a service that prevents identity theft before it happens, by monitoring and tracking your information from impending threats. Remember, there are countless ways an e-commerce breach can occur, be mindful and careful with any and all personal materials.