When you notice transactions on your bank account or credit card that you know you didn't make, your heart sinks, knowing that your information was somehow compromised. The first thought through your head is, “My identity was stolen, this needs to get fixed.” However, several steps must be taken to repair the damage, and it may seem overwhelming at first. So that you don't miss anything, make a list of what to do if your identity is stolen. So how do you prevent identity theft and what steps to take if your identity is stolen.
The First Steps
Immediately place an initial fraud alert with the credit report companies. You only need to call one of them. That credit company will place an alert on the other two major credit reporting companies. The three are Equifax, Experian and Transunion.
Once that has been completed, order all three credit reports. You'll be able to get all three from any one of the online credit report sites that offer all three. It's best to use one of the services offered by any of the three credit reporting agencies, rather than relying on other sites, as other sites may be scams. You may also contact all three of the credit reporting agencies and order each report separately.
Create an identity theft report by submitting a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Print a copy of the report. File a police report, including the identity theft affidavit you just created through the FTC. Be sure to get a copy of the police report. You may also get a copy of the report number. Be sure the police officer attaches a copy of the FTC report to the police report.
Review Credit Reports
Periodically review your credit reports. You should review them on a quarterly basis. Dispute any errors you find with the credit reporting companies. Submit the theft report to the credit companies to block the errors. If the credit reporting companies accept the credit report, they have four days to remove the erroneous information. If not, the credit report companies have five days to request more information from you.
Notify the Business
Notify the business who reported the information on your credit report. Additionally, ask the business to give you copies of the information the thief used to get credit with them. You may also give written permission for law enforcement to obtain the information from the business.
Preventing Identity Theft
Keeping your documents close to you is not enough to prevent identity theft. Criminals go through trash, phish via emails, phone calls and texts to get your identification and also pose as legitimate businesses to get your information. In some cases, someone working for a legitimate business, such as a doctor's office or other entity where you would use your personal information, will use his or her job to gain access to your information.
To lower the risk of identity theft, be sure to shred any documents with your address, social security number and birth date on them. Also, shred any financial records, even if they do not have your social security number on them.
The best way to shred documents is with a crosscut shredder. A strip shredder is fine for some of the less sensitive documents, but anything with your social security number, computer hard drives and other storage devices, and anything with account numbers should be cross shredded.
Contact Carolina Shred
If you have a box of old tax returns, banking statements or other sensitive documents, contact Carolina Shred to have those documents shredded. Occasionally, local businesses partner with us to have a shred day. Watch for announcements from these businesses for shred days. Our truck will be at those businesses and you'll be able bring your sensitive documents to the truck to have them shredded.