Ten Things to do if You Become a Victim of Identity Theft

Last Tuesday I gave you some tips on how to avoid Identity Theft. What if, after all your efforts, you still become a victim? Here are some steps you can take to help recover your identity and financial losses:

1. Don’t panic. Of course, if your identity is compromised you are going to be upset. However, often the process to recover your identity is a tedious one, and you won’t want your emotions getting in the way. Remember, your life isn’t over and you will get your identity cleared up!

2. File a police report with the local police or with the police where the identity theft occurred.

3. Review your credit reports and place fraud alerts on them from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

4. Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been interfered with and close the accounts. Make sure you speak with someone in the fraud or security department  and follow up in writing.

5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or call 1-877-438-4338.

6. Put a flag alert on all accounts with your financial institutions and ask them to contact you if there is unusual activity.

7. If you think someone is using your social security number, contact the Social Security Administration immediately.

8. Contact the IRS. Believe it or not, but some thieves may actually try to use your information to file an income tax return in order to get a refund.

9. Contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The ICCC has a central referral system for internet related crimes, so this is a good place to go if you’ve been a victim of any internet related crime.

10. Finally, keep a detailed and accurate account of all conversations and correspondence. You can get more information on what your rights are in the event of Identity Theft here.

Here is another resource for protecting yourself from identity theft.

(Linked to Top Ten Tuesday.)

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival (February 13, 2011)

Here’s this week’s contributions to RAnn’s weekly Sunday Snippet meme (As always, come check out other Sunday Snippet posts, or join in with your own!):

Monday: Tostado Beef Casserole

Tuesday: Ten Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Wordless Wednesday: Chuck E. Cheese fun!

Friday: See what Love the Father has…

Ten Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

This is a little different from my usual postings but since Identity theft can affect all of us, I thought it was appropriate to share these suggestions with you. This post is based on an article I wrote a couple of years ago on by business blog:

Identity theft is a serious crime that can destroy your life. In order to protect yourself, it is important to guard your personal information. I was reminded of this not too long ago when I received a letter from my former health insurance carrier informing me that one of their company laptops was stolen with all my personal information in it.

Do you know how to safeguard your personal information so that you don’t fall victim to identity fraud? Here are 10 steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming the next victim:

1. Get your credit report and fix any errors. The reports are free once a year. You can get the reports from any of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax; Experian and TransUnion. It’s a good idea to space out the reports from each company so you can check your credit status a few times a year.

2. Protect your Social Security Number. Give it out only when absolutely necessary. Except for banks, employers or other government institutions, you are not legally bound to give your Social Security Number to private businesses. Ask that they use a different number for identification purposes.

3. Monitor your monthly credit and bank statements very carefully. Check for any discrepancies and correct any errors immediately.

4. Shred everything. That means EVERTHING. Reconciled statements, pre-approved credit applications, bills or anything that has information on you should be shredded. Get a criss-cross shredder instead of a straight shredder. Thieves can and do rummage through the trash and take the time to put together straight-shredded documents.

5. Don’t leave a paper trail. There are still a lot of companies that have not stopped printing your whole account number and expiration date on receipts. Keep all credit, gas or ATM receipts in a safe place until you get home and remember to take them out of your wallet or purse.

6. Speaking of a paper trail, clean out your car. Don’t leave your important papers in there. Either take them out or lock the glove compartment or trunk.

7. When you sign the back of your credit or debit cards write, “check photo ID” in the signature block. Also, some banks now offer an option for a photo to be put on the card. If your bank offers a photo ID, get one put on your card.

8. Put your mail in the Post Office Box. Mail left in your home mail box for the carrier can be stolen and used by thieves to get your personal information.

9. Shop secure online. Make sure all charges are handled through an encrypted mode or through a secure site. Also, look for either the BBB online seal or the Trust-e symbol before purchasing.

10. Know how your personal information is used. Make sure that the sites you shop on have a privacy policy – and read it. If you have questions about the policy, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation.

Bonus 1! Keep your personal information private. Never give your Social Security Number, bank account numbers or credit/debit card numbers to telephone or email solicitors. Some thieves are tricky and will send emails that look like legitimate sites (such as Paypal) in order to garner your information.

Bonus 2! Consider joining an identity theft protection program, such as LifeLock, which offers proactive ID theft protection. These services track your credit and identity, scans for threats and if you are ever a victim, they help you clear up identity theft issues.

For more information on protecting your identity and Social Security number go to Social Security online.

Next week, I’ll post ten things to do if you do fall victim to identity fraud. In the meantime, if you have any other tips for protecting oneself from identity theft, feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to hear them.

(Linked to Top Ten Tuesday and Works for me Wednesday.)