Identify theft can be very scary. Victims of identity theft often feel violated and helpless, and to make matters worse, their credit score can end up suffering significantly. The entire situation can be a total mess, but there are some steps you can take to help minimize the effects. If you’ve become a victim of identity theft, be sure to do the following:
Change all of your account passwords
This means everything: although it’s crucial to change passwords for any financial accounts you have, such as online bank account access or credit card payment sites, it also means personal accounts. This includes things like personal email, social media accounts, and so on. If the identity thief still has access to your email, he or she can request vital information (for example, requesting to change the password to your bank account) and can make the damage even worse.
Look over your credit reports carefully
Even if you aren’t a victim of identity theft, you should routinely check your credit report for anything that looks out of place or downright wrong, but this is especially important if you know your identity has been stolen. This includes charges for items or services that you know you never charged, or loans that you know you never applied for. The sooner you notice fraudulent activity, the sooner you can take action to put it to an end.
Call your bank and any other financial institutions you deal with (credit card companies, for example) and let them know what is happening. You’ll also want to inform one of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and tell them you want to put an alert on your credit report.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an organization that can work with you if you suspect someone has stolen your identity. You’ll want to file an official report with them and be as detailed as possible in your report.
What happens next
Identity theft victims typically see a huge drop in their credit score, which can take many years to repair. You may or may not be responsible for some of the charges that were made fraudulently in your name. You may be able to dispute some, whereas others you may be financially liable for.
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Nothing above is meant to provide financial, legal, or tax advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.