It may seem ironic in modern times, with all the advances in technology, but identity theft continues to be a real problem. Sure, there are simple and essential precautions you can take to prevent cyber identity theft, but the sad reality is that this type of crime continues to spiral out of control. The Federal Trade Commission reports that as many as 9 million Americans are affected by this modern day theft each year. This means it could even happen to you or someone you know.
Here are the steps you should take if you become an unfortunate victim of online identity theft:
You need to take action as soon as you realize your identity may have been compromised. This helps prevent the situation from worsening. The first thing to do is contact the special clearinghouse that tracks and reports identity theft. Call 877-ID-THEFT – or access and complete the complaint form on the Consumer.Gov website. The important thing about this first step is to make sure you retain the reference number assigned to your case. Also print out a hard copy of the FTC ID Theft Affidavit, as you’ll need it for reference later.
In addition to filing the initial report with them, the FTC recommends that you promptly contact at least one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. They, in turn, will establish a fraud alert on your behalf. These alerts are free to consumers and provide red flags to potential credit grantors, advising them that they should take extra precautions in verifying your personal identification before extending credit in your name. These reporting agency alerts typically remain in effect for 90 days. They are also are renewable within 30 days of expiration by filing new requests with each company. You may extend the alerts up to seven years. Again, it is important to keep copies of all these reports in a safe place, as each company will assign its own reference number to your case.
Call your local police department or other law enforcement agency and file a police report. Be sure to have a copy of the FTC ID Theft Affidavit that you printed out in step one available, as well as case numbers from any of the credit reporting agencies that have already been contacted. When the officers take your crime report you’ll also find it helpful if you’ve made notes about times, dates, and details about any known fraud activity of which you are aware.
Have you ever been victim of cyber identity theft? What additional advice do you have to share with others who may be victimized? Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.