The banks and the institutions we do business with tend to have our best interests in mind because, all things being equal, it’s good for business. We take it on faith that they protect us against identity theft.
Yet people’s identities are stolen all the time.
In this post, I discuss identity fraud, how to take precautions if your wallet or passport goes missing, and how to recover from identity theft.
Identity theft, at the very least, can be an annoyance. It can mean changing your credit card and bank account numbers. It can mean waiting a few days for your bank to restore lost funds from fraudulent charges to your account, but it’s not always that simple. Sometimes those funds are lost forever. Your credit score can be severely damaged. Your whole life can be changed for the worse.
If you think that you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, you need to take action immediately. You don’t want to wait until someone has opened several credit cards in your name and started running up debts.
If your license or passport goes missing, the first thing you should do is call your bank and your credit card company. Check for any new activity. Have them change your account numbers, change your PINs, and flag the account.
Next you’ll want to call credit bureaus. If you aren’t sure that your identity’s been stolen, but you have reason to believe that it may have been, you’ll want to get credit reports and ask for initial alerts from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The initial alert will last for 90 days and will prevent anyone from adding new credit cards to your existing accounts, increase your limits, or open new credit accounts in your name.
If, after 90 days, you haven’t seen any activity of this sort, you’re probably safe, though you should still keep an eye on your assets and make sure that none of your old account numbers or PINs remain active.
By the way, there is only one website that offers free credit reports: AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the official Web site was created by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion in order to comply with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. Through this website, you are entitlted to receive up to three free credit reports per year. The other websites offering “free credit reports” are private companies and/or scams.
If You’re a Victim
Before you proceed, if you’ve been victimized by an identity thief, you’ll need to call the police and file a report. Though your house hasn’t been broken into, and you can’t actually see the robbery that’s occurred, you have indeed been robbed. You’ll need to report the theft to get an investigation underway.
You can hire a private investigator to track down and reclaim lost assets from identity theft. This may seem like an impossible task, but we have a great deal of experience in tracking people down. Everyone leaves a paper trail eventually. Our team of former agents for the IRS, DEA, FBI, and Secret Service know how to pick up even the faintest trail.
After we’ve tracked down and reclaimed your assets, you’ll want to make sure that they stay with you. You’ll need to check your credit report regularly. You don’t want to fall victim to the same crime again.
Finally, don’t be the victim of signing up with a company that will watch your credit accounts and advise you of any nefarious activity. Why would you spend you hard-earned dollars each month for a service you can get for FREE? Just keep a vigilant watch on your credit accounts and scores and routinely get your copies of your credit reports.