Identity theft is no laughing matter. In today’s age of electronic communication, it is more important than ever to safeguard your accounts. However, even with the best precautions, you may find your Identity compromised. If that happens to you, here are some important steps you should take to win back your security.
- Change your passwords – If you notice any suspicious activity on your accounts, the first thing you should do is change your passwords and pin numbers. This is a quick and easy way to keep thieves from doing more damage. Make sure to select a strong password with a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Try to avoid any passwords that you have used in the last 6 months.
- Monitor and freeze your credit – If identity thieves have gotten your personal information they may use it to open new accounts or credit cards. The only way to monitor this is to check your credit reports for any suspicious activity. There are three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each agency allows you pull one free report per year. If you spread them out every four months, you can keep a good eye on your credit activity year-round. You can also freeze your credit to limit the ability to open new accounts in your name. A freeze will not prevent you from getting a job or a new credit card when you need it. In these cases, the credit bureaus simply call you to confirm that it is you requesting the inquiry.
- Notify your bank – When unauthorized charges appear on your accounts, you should contact your bank as soon as possible. Most banks have a window of time in which you can dispute charges, usually one month, so it’s a good idea to monitor your transactions and bank statements regularly. Try to check your transaction history once a week to make sure it’s accurate. If something stands out, call your bank right away.
- File a police report – When fraudulent activity occurs on your account, you may need to file a police report to deal with the aftermath. This can be particularly useful in the case of identity theft where new accounts have been opened in your name. Banks may require a police report before they are able to close these accounts. It will take a little bit of time, but it’s worth it if it can help repair the damage.
- Consider a credit monitoring company – When your account is compromised, it can be a big headache. There are some services that can help you put the pieces back together. These credit monitoring services can be available through your credit card company or independent insurance agencies. Be sure to read the policy carefully to understand what services they provide. Some will monitor activity and can help prevent fraud, while others help you recover and handle most of the paperwork of remediation. Look at your budget to decide what option is right for you.