How many times have you reached for your credit card, bank card, social security card, license, without giving a second thought as to how it is tied to your very identity and assets? You quickly take them out of your wallet, use them when needed, and place them back inside without even thinking twice. And while the majority of the time that is absolutely fine, unfortunately, identity theft is very much a reality of today.
Identity theft can happen as easily as you forgetting a card somewhere, or having it stolen along with your wallet. But today thieves have gotten smarter and more industrious, and online identity theft is becoming the real theft.
Online hackers are able to steal all kinds of information from people and before you know it someone has access to your bank account, your personal records, and your very identity.
Statistics show that 2017 was a record year for identity theft here in the United States, with at least 16.7 million people who fell victim to the crime.
So what happens if you have now found yourself as one of these statistics? What if you have recently discovered that you are a victim of identity theft yourself? What can you do to pick up the pieces? Here are some initial steps to take.
Immediately Put a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report
The very first step you will want to take should be immediate and swift. As soon as you find out that you have been the victim of identity theft you will need to contact one of the credit reporting agencies and put a fraud alert on your credit report. What this does is alert all creditors and lenders that fraud has taken place and that they need to take extra steps in the verification process before they allow for any credit.
As soon as you place this fraud alert it also gives you access to a copy of your credit report, for free, which allows you to go over all the activity.
Others to Contact
You will also want to alert your bank if your bank card and/or credit card have been stolen. Again this should happen immediately. The next step is to contact the Social Security Administration and the IRS so you don’t end up with fraudulent behavior there.
File Official Reports
A police report will also be necessary, as there is an Identity Theft Report that you can fill out. You can then file an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission.
Basically, you are covering all your tracks to be sure that everyone is aware that theft has occurred, and you aren’t the one making these charges.
Your Credit Score Has Been Ruined – Now What?
Access to cash and credit is often the top priority for these thieves, which means they can quickly use up all your credit and make all kinds of massive purchases that leave you with a horrible credit rating. After all your years of being diligent to pay bills on time, and keep your debt ratio in check, this can be incredibly depressing. Your credit rating affects your ability to borrow funds, get a mortgage, rent an apartment, purchase a car, etc., so it’s a very big deal.
This blog post on the Crediful site can offer a lot of help and information on how you can go about repairing your credit. It highlights Ovation Credit Services, which offers free credit consultations and will put together a plan that repairs your credit. It looks at each case specifically, so the fact your credit is in disarray thanks to identity theft will require specific steps. It can take a lot of work and stress off your plate since they are professionals when it comes to repairing credit.
Who is Responsible for the Charges?
A common question is who is responsible for the charges on a stolen credit card. From the moment you report the theft you won’t be responsible, but you can be held liable for up to $50 worth of charges made before you report the theft. In other words, report the theft immediately. Debit cards work a bit differently, but again the faster you report it, the less you will be held liable for.
An Unfortunate but Growing Problem
Identity theft is something that can happen to anyone at any time and can be a hassle at the very least. This is a growing problem that definitely deserves more coverage and awareness so people know what steps they should take should they find themselves a victim.