What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
In our fast-paced, highly technical world, it is not uncommon for individuals to have their identity stolen. Identity Theft is when a person takes information related to your identity and uses it to their advantage. It is a crime, and you should take precautionary steps to prevent it from happening to you. Once a criminal has stolen your identity, it can take a long time to correct.
Signs someone has stolen your information
You may suspect that someone has stolen your personal information if you notice any of the following:
- You are missing bills.
- Stores will not take your checks.
- Hospitals and doctors send you bills for medical services you never received.
- Your bank statement shows unexplained withdrawals.
- Your credit report reflects accounts you've never heard of.
- The IRS tells you an additional tax return was completed and filed using your name.
What to do if you lose your information
If you lose your wallet, credit cards or other personal information, contact the bank or credit union you use for savings and checking accounts, and review your account information to determine if there are any unusual entries. Contact credit card companies to cancel cards and review the same information. If your information is lost due to theft, you should also file a theft report with the police.
Next, get a copy of your credit report, and contact one of the credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Transunion, or Experian. Tell them you want to put a fraud alert on your credit report. To review, once you believe your identity has been stolen, these are some important steps you should take:
- Contact your bank or credit union.
- Contact credit card companies.
- Get and review a credit report.
- Place fraud alerts on your credit file.
You can also file an identity theft report with the FTC, and with the police (if applicable).
One of your challenges will be to stay organized. You may be contacting a number of people and organizations through email, telephone and regular mail. To help keep things in order:
- Begin logging every telephone call on a computer spreadsheet, index cards or legal pad.
- Build a filing system to keep documents organized.
- When sending documents by regular mail, use certified mail and tell your post office you want a return receipt.
Placing a fraud alert
One of the national credit reporting agencies or bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—should be alerted as soon as possible. Tell them you want to place an initial fraud alert. You only need to contact one company, and they will call the others with your alert information2 also after placing a fraud alert, merchants and other organizations must verify your identity before they provide credit using your personal data. The initial alert will stay on your credit file for 90 days. The alert also gives you the option of obtaining one free copy of your current credit file from all three of the credit agencies.1
Obtaining your credit report
To get your free credit report, explain to the credit reporting agencies that you filed an initial fraud alert. Then place an order to obtain a free copy of your current, up-to-date credit report. You can also tell each bureau that you would like only the final four numerals of your Social Security number to appear on your file.
Remember to keep track of every phone call you make and piece of mail you send. It is a good idea to make a copy of all documents and file them appropriately.
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