Identity theft can be emotionally and financially devastating, and it can take quite a bit of time to sort through everything once you are a victim of this crime. To prevent as much damage from happening as you can, there are steps you need to take immediately if you feel that your identity has been compromised. If you follow these steps as soon as you learn about what has occurred, this will make it easier to correct the situation and deal with your bank.
Put a Credit Freeze on Your File
Often, someone who steals your identity will open multiple accounts at different banks. To counteract this, you can put a credit freeze or a security freeze on your credit report by contacting the three major credit bureaus.
This credit freeze will state that you do not want anyone to open an account for you. You can have the freeze lifted rather easily once you have cleared up the mess that you are in, and if you are ready to borrow money. When you put the freeze on your account, mention that you believe you are a victim of identity theft.
File a Police Report
Once identity theft has occurred, you will need to file an official police report and get copies to send to any banks that opened up bogus accounts in your name. The report will help you clear yourself of responsibility for the accounts in question.
If you know who stole your identity, you will need to press charges. Many people find this difficult to do because often the person who steals your identity is someone you know. It can be difficult to file a police report against a family member or a friend. However if you fail to do this, you will be held responsible for the debt. Remember, you are not doing anything wrong when you file the report.
Contact the Banks Involved
No matter what specifically has transpired with the identity theft, you are going to need to get in touch with a bank. If your wallet or checkbook has been stolen, you will need to contact your financial institution and let it know immediately so it can freeze your account and issue you a new credit card if applicable. If someone has opened an account in your name, you will have to call the appropriate bank and inform it of your problem. It should be able to help you and refer you to the fraud department. It will likely take you more than one phone call to clear everything up.
Prevent Identity Theft
To minimize the chances of you becoming an identity theft victim, you need to protect your Social Security number and other private information from others. You should never leave that information lying around. Additionally, you should regularly check your credit report to look for accounts that you did not open. The sooner you catch the errors, the easier they will be to fix.
It will take time to totally clear up identity theft. The banks involved in your case will need to process your paperwork along with a copy of your police report. And remember, you need to act quickly so the accounts in question can be frozen. The banks should automatically remove any bogus accounts from your credit report once they have resolved the issues at hand, but it is a good idea for you to check your credit report closely to make sure that the removal has occurred.