In a previous Blog post, Protecting Your Financial Life in the Digital Age, we discussed ways to protect yourself against identity theft. While it is important to take all the precautions you can to protect yourself it is also important to know what to do if you should fall victim to identity theft. Below are several actions to take if you find your identity has been compromised. Action 1: At a minimum, you should place a fraud alert with the three Credit Reporting Agencies. This should limit a potential thief’s ability to establish new credit in your name. Complete instructions can be found with this link.
For added protection, consider freezing your credit. This will limit any new credit from being established under your name while the freeze is in effect.
To freeze your credit, contact each of the nationwide credit reporting agencies:
- Equifax — 1‑800‑525‑6285
- Experian —1‑888‑397‑3742
- TransUnion — 1‑800‑680‑7289
You'll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. Fees vary based on where you live, but commonly range from $5 to $10. This fee may be waived with a verification that you are a victim of identity theft.
After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting agency will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.
Action 2: Request credit reports from at least one of the three Credit Reporting Agencies. Review your report for any lines of credit that you don’t recognize. The report will have instructions on disputing your account if needed. Reports may be accessed for free at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
Action 3: Contact custodians of your bank and investment accounts to inform them of your identity theft. Banks may assign new account or credit card numbers. Investment custodians may flag your account to avoid distributions of funds without additional steps to authenticate requests.
Action 4: Consider filing a Police Report and an Identity Theft Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (link here). Document all communication with banks and financial institutions. Keep dated notes of phone calls and copies of all correspondence. Official disputes should be in writing and sent with tracking (such as certified mail with a return receipt).
Action 5: If you are victim of Tax related fraud, also consider these steps.
Generally you will need to file a paper tax return. Along with the return, Form 14039 – Identity Theft Affidavit will need to be attached to alert the IRS of the fraudulent activity. For subsequent years once your identity has been authenticated, the IRS will provide you a PIN Number to file future returns electronically.
Consider requesting a tax transcript to see what return was filed under your social security number. This can be done at http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get-Transcript.
Consider reviewing your Social Security statement to ensure that your earnings history is reported correctly. This can be done at http://www.ssa.gov/.