This week is Identity Theft Awareness Week, the perfect time to refresh your knowledge of what to do if your identity is stolen – since fraudsters are getting so creative these days. While it may seem like time to panic, there are plenty of stops in place to not only report the theft – but also return anything that’s been stolen. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you act quickly, should you ever need to.
Know the scope
Not every security breach classifies as identity theft. Identity theft is specifically when someone uses your personal information to file a tax return, open a bank account, or make fabricated medical claims.
There is no one correct way to verify if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. There are both paid and free credit monitoring programs that can scan your history and alert you to any signs of theft. These sites monitor the dark web and credit reports to look for suspicious activity involving your personal information.
Once you’ve confirmed your identity has in fact been stolen, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can report over the phone at 1-877-438-4338, or online through IdentityTheft.gov. However, you should know that in the case that you need to go to the police for stolen property or report charges to your credit card, they may request an official report. You will only receive an ID Theft Report if you file your case online, not by phone.
Ensure that you also notify any additional agencies such as Medicare’s fraud office if they are your provider and medical fraud has occurred, the IRS if a false tax return has been filed under your identity, or your state’s labor department if your information was used to file a fake unemployment claim.
Alert other relevant companies or agencies
Outside of government entities, you’ll want to alert any relevant companies that could be affected by this event. Notify your health insurance provider if your identity was used for a false medical claim. Contact the fraud department at companies where the thief tried to open an account or apply for a job. In the event that you know the person behind the crime, your name was used in a police interaction, or another company such as a credit agency requires it – file a report through your local police.
It’s also a good idea to notify your credit card company to shut down affected accounts and freeze your credit report too. This means that anyone attempting to access your credit report will be blocked, and credit bureaus won’t share it with anyone who requests it. Additionally, you’ll want to put a fraud alert on your credit reports with the main three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Take steps to prevent future theft
Now that you know your information is accessible, you’ll want to take extra precautions to prevent repeated ID theft.
Sign up for your free annual free credit report and if you are a First Financial member, you can also register your debit and credit cards within our mobile app to receive purchase alerts for all transactions or easily turn off one of you cards in an instant if you need to. You may be offered a free account with a credit monitoring service when you report a stolen identity, which you should definitely utilize. If that’s not the case, both free and paid accounts are available through various companies like Credit Karma or CreditWise.
You’ll also want to keep a tighter lock on any accounts with personal information stored. Start using a password manager to ensure your passwords are difficult to crack and enable two-factor authorization whenever it’s offered. Additionally, begin monitoring your identity more closely by making a habit of reviewing your credit report and bank statements.
Identity theft is not a joke! Stolen information gives criminals the ability to strap you with long-term damage, if not taken care of quickly. This Identity Theft Awareness Week and every week, stay on top of your security, be alert for phishing scams, shred documents with sensitive information, and be smart about where you share your personal details. For more information on what to look out for or if you suspect your identity has been stolen, contact Member Services at 732-312-1500 or visit one of our branches.
Take further identity theft precautions and stay in the know about ID theft scams by subscribing to First Financial’s monthly newsletter.