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What To Do If Someone Stole My Identity?

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Fraud may not be as physical as other crimes like rape, assault, or murder. Nonetheless, it’s equally threatening and dangerous. Plus, it usually comes in what seem to be harmless forms and situations. So, in most cases, you wouldn’t even know you’ve fallen victim until it’s too late. 

Most people resort to cloud-based storage or online databases mainly because of the convenience these modern platforms offer. Unfortunately, however, whether you store your data online or offline, hackers seem to not go out of creative ways to bypass security protocols and obtain such information. 

What is Identity Theft and How Dangerous Could It Be?

Identity theft is considered criminal fraud. This scheme involves the use of stolen personal information for personal or financial gains. It’s like a combination of data exploitation and blackmail. 

Identity thieves have a long list of methods and ways of acquiring one’s confidential and sensitive details. Here are some of those. 

  • Card Skimming. They capture information from credit card magnetic strips and EFTPOS cards. 
  • Malicious Software. They hack devices and databases using viruses, worms, keyloggers, and other malware. 
  • Piggybacking/ Peeking. They look over your shoulder when accessing accounts on your phone or typing in PINs on ATMs. 
  • Social Engineering. They initiate spam calls, email phishing, smishing, spear-phishing, pretexting, and other attacks. 
  • Wallet or Device Theft. They go after stuff and properties that could contain valuable information. They could even go through your rubbish to find bills or statements that contain personal details. 

Identity theft might not be as physical or as violent as other crimes but it could still cost you a lot when you fall victim to such schemes. 

  • Financial Costs. Identity theft could be executed for blackmail or extortion. Most fraudsters would use other people’s identities for their own financial gains. 
  • Credit Scores. Some predators use other people’s names and credibility to apply for loans, mortgages, or subscription plans. They don’t, of course, intend to pay for maintenance so these could negatively impact the victim’s credit scores. 
  • Personal Reputation. Some identities are used to troll online or contact the victims’ network. These criminals take advantage of their victims’ connections for their personal gains. 
  • Emotional Damages. Some victims could also be emotionally affected by such hideous actions. This is specifically true if they lose some important relationships because of these schemes. 
  • Mental Health Issues. Some victims could even suffer mental health problems because of excessive pressure and stress. The anxiety that the thief might attack again anytime could cause more complicated health problems. 

What to Do Should You Fall Victim to Identity Theft?

credit card stolen

Once you’ve realized – even if you haven’t fully confirmed the details yet – that you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, it’s important to act quickly and smartly. 

Resolving such crimes and hunting down the fraudsters are usually tedious processes that require some time. Here are some actions you might want to consider taking so you could start recovering from the losses at the soonest possible time. 

  1. Secure Your Other Devices, Networks, and Data

Even if you’re not sure yet how your attackers have obtained your personal information, it’s best to secure all sources, storage, and databases. 

You could start with changing passwords and removing other accesses on all your accounts. If there’s an option, remotely wipe up data or remotely lock any stolen device. 

  1. File Formal Complaint to FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a specific department for identity theft. They help address and resolve such issues. 

Navigate to the FTC’s official website, www.IdentityTheft.gov. Then provide all necessary information. Be sure to be as thorough and as accurate as possible. Input all available and valuable details – from phone numbers to screenshots to invoices. 

  1. Get in Touch With Main Credit-Reporting Agencies

It’s also highly recommended that you get in touch with all relevant credit reporting agencies, especially the main ones. This may not completely prevent the thieves but it could mitigate the risks. 

Major agencies like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion have their respective fraud prevention teams that you could reach out to. Depending on the nature of the information exploited, you could also reach out to other agencies such as the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange, the Internal Revenue Service, and Medicare or Medicaid.  

  1. Coordinate with Your Local Law Enforcement Agents and Press Charges

Some police departments might not have designated fraud teams that address identity thefts. Nonetheless, it helps to file an official complaint to the local police within the jurisdiction where the crime took place. 

Aside from the police report that’s usually required by creditors, it’s also important to reach out to the local law enforcement agencies to press charges and actually make it an official case.

  1. Notify Your Family, Friends, Colleagues, and Acquaintances

Aside from taking legal actions, it’s also important that you notify all people you might know or might know you. This is to prevent them from being a part of the thieves’ scheme and also falling victim to your attackers. 

Some fraudsters use connections and take advantage of their victim’s reputations to achieve their goals. So before they even cause further damage using your name and information, let all the people from your personal and business network know. 

Precautionary Measures You Could Take

avoid

Here are some precautionary measures and safety nets to protect yourself from identity thieves. 

  1. Install security tools and monitoring apps
  2. Use strong and unique passwords on your devices and accounts. 
  3. Lock your mailbox and regularly empty it. 
  4. Shred or destroy confidential documents. 
  5. Never mindlessly disclose PIIs, especially your Social Security Number. 
  6. Never leave credit cards, wallets, and devices unattended.
  7. Thoroughly monitor and audit your credit reports and billing statements. 
  8. Be skeptical with unsolicited calls and messages.
  9. Use a separate or specific card for your online transactions. 
  10. Opt-out of prescreened credit card offers 

Conclusion

Identity theft is a type of white-collar crime, meaning victims usually know their attackers at some level. And since direct or physical access isn’t actually necessary, you won’t even know you’ve fallen a victim until it’s too late. Hence, you have to actually be more vigilant and cautious at all times.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do police investigate identity theft?

Police would, of course, entertain complaints regarding identity theft. They also issue police reports that are often required by creditors. For a more thorough investigation, however, you must reach out to the right agencies such as the FTC. 

  • What information does a scammer need?

Identity thieves would usually look for complete legal names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and bank details. 

  • Does identity theft hurt your credit score?

Yes, a victim’s credit score is one of the main aspects that’s negatively affected. Identity thieves would fail or neglect payments after opening new credit accounts. 

  • How do I freeze my Social Security number?

If you think your SSN is compromised, immediately request Block Electronic Access. You could reach them at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778.


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