UPDATED SEPTEMBER 1, 2021 This piece has been updated to reflect the emergence of new technology
Christian Mathews Security Writer
14.4 million people fell victim to identity fraud in 2019 alone. People don’t get back the things they lost related to the fraud in 25% of these cases. The average loss was $375 per person. These were just in suspected cases of identity fraud that got reported to the Federal Trade Commission. One question many ask is, “What to do if my identity is stolen?”
Not all kinds of fraud qualify for identity theft, but it is one of the major complaints that come up.
So, what is identity theft? Personal info theft is when someone uses your personal data for financial gain. This includes filing false tax returns, making fraudulent insurance claims, or even opening new accounts in your name. An easy way to protect agains identity theft is to use an anti-Identity theft stamp on all documents containing your personal information before discarding it.
The result of stolen identity can impact the victims gravely and make their life incredibly difficult. Identity fraud is difficult to resolve. This can be frustrating as all this while you are losing money, reputation and could even be held liable for criminal activity committed by others in your name. How to know if someone stole your identity is on the top of many minds. Read further to protect yourself and your family.
1What To Do If You Suspect Identity Theft?
If you suspect that you have been a victim of identity fraud, follow these procedures immediately. The Fair Credit Reporting Act protects your rights in this regard.
- Report to Federal Trade Commission
- File a report to your local police department
- Notify IRS and insurance authorities if you have insurance for identity fraud.
- Inform all major credit bureaus about the fraud and place a freeze on the credit report.
- Keep documentation on the fraudulent transactions.
- Block the reporting of any damaging report to the credit agencies so it cannot affect your credit scores.
- Block businesses from reporting fraudulent information to the credit agencies.
2What To Do If Identity Is Stolen? – Detailed Steps
The process of resolving identity theft is a tedious and long one. To ensure you are in complete legal compliance, unfortunately you do have to jump through many hoops. However, this will ensure your credit report and reputation is not tarnished. If you follow the process mentioned above, there is hope that you have the ground to get this problem resolved.
Report to Federal Trade Commission
The FTC keeps the data regarding personal info theft. Even though they cannot prosecute the criminal responsible for this, their information is used by legal agencies to track down the criminal. Therefore, the first thing you do must be to report it to the FTC.
You can visit www.identitytheft.gov and file your report. Once you have completed the report, you will get a recovery plan. This will conclude documents that can be used in the police report. Additionally, it will be used to dispute any charges you have incurred by any bank or companies.
File a report to your local police department
If you are wondering what to do if my identity is stolen then your next step is to report to the local police station. Doing so is not a lot of help as they cannot do anything about the stolen identity if it has happened online or overseas. However,t it could help if the person imitating you is a local.
The report also protects you by giving you the paper trail in legal disputes. If someone commits a crime after stealing your identity, the local police department will exonerate you. They can also help you resolve things.
Your state could have a special unit that works against stolen identity. If that is the case, you need to be contacting them too, in addition to the local police.
Notify IRS and insurance authorities if you have insurance for identity fraud
IRS and insurance are the next authorities you need to loop in. If the criminal used your social security number and filed an income tax, the IRS needs to know immediately. The form you need to submit is 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit.
If you have insurance for identity fraud, report to them. If your homeowner or any other insurance plans cover identity fraud, you should leverage them as well. How you have acquired coverage does not matter. You should immediately call them. Following that, find out how to file a report with them to ensure you get the financial backup to mitigate the financial damages you have incurred.
Inform all major credit bureaus about the fraud and place a freeze on the credit report.
Next on the list is the major credit companies. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – inform at least one of them to keep a fraud alert on your account. The alert will be applicable for a year.
These agencies will also inform other financial institutions that your identity has been compromised. Any creditors will then take extra steps to ensure that they are indeed reaching out to you and not the criminal. The good thing is, you don’t need to report to all three companies.
You just need to report to one, and they will contact the other two. Also, placing a fraud alert is free.
3What To Do If Identity Is Stolen: Additional Options
To make sure that you don’t continue being targeted for identity theft, here are a few pointers to follow:
- Call the banks and businesses where your stolen identity was used
- Reach out to your insurance and medical care providers
- Flag your driver’s license
- Clean out your accounts and transfer them to someone you trust while you sort this out
4How To Prosecute Someone For Identity Theft?
In 1998, congress declared personal info theft and identity theft as a federal crime. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act was introduced. The federal crime will attract 15 years of jail term, fines, and forfeiture of any personal property that has been used to commit this crime.
Not only this, but identity thieves also violate other statutes of the constitution, including credit card fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, financial fraud, and so on. Each of these felonies themselves carries a substantial individual penalty. In some cases, it could be 30 years of jail time, fine and forfeiture.
The federal prosecutors, in your case, will work with various agencies that investigate such crimes, including the FBI, the USSS, and USPIS, to prosecute the person responsible for identity theft and fraud. Protect your accounts while the matter is being resolved by following all the legal guidelines.
Beyond taking steps once it has happened, it is important to know how to protect from identity theft in the future again. Protect yourself and your family.