It was three years ago this week we learned of a massive security breach at Equifax. We know that roughly half of us have our info floating around on the sinister ďdark webĒ, the place where identities are sold in bulk. I was impacted along with 143 million other lucky Americans, and all thanks to Equifax.
Here are some important first steps for you should you discover that you have indeed had your identity stolen:
First, contact the companies where you know fraud happened, and start with their fraud departments, they all have them and they are trained to help.
At minimum, freeze those accounts or to be even more cautious, close them and re-open the accounts with new numbers.
Be sure to change Personal Identification Numbers (PIN), passwords, and logins.
Contact all three credit reporting services and place a fraud alert on your credit file. All three will place a free hold for 90 days. When you request a fraud alert, they are supposed to notify the other two, but I would not risk it. .
Get a copy of all three credit reports and take a hard look at them to see if there is anything you donít recognize. You can get all three free here: annualcreditreport.com
Report the Theft
First, report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. This can be done online at this website: https://www.identitytheft.gov/Assistant#, or you can do it by phone: 1-877-438-4338.† They will start an identity theft file on you.
Next, call the non-emergency number of your local police department, and ask them what info they need to file a police report.
Start to Repair the Damage
All of this may seem overwhelming, but be methodical and attack these items one at a time. When you speak to anyone about your identity theft, write down his or her name, phone number or email address, the date and time. You may need this info later. Also do the following:
Close all accounts not opened by you. Request a letter stating that you are not liable for any charges or cost, and ask the business to report the information to all three credit reporting agencies. Keep these letters or emails in a safe, fireproof place.
Get your credit reports corrected. Send all three reporting services a certified letter, return receipt requested. Here is a sample letter you can use:
Fraud Victim Assistance Department P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016 1-800-680-7289
P.O. Box 105069 Atlanta, GA 30348-5069 1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013 1-888-397-3742
Additional Things You Can Do
If you are contacted by a debt collector, explain your identity was stolen, and be firm about the fact that you do not owe the debt. Contact the company the debt collector is representing and explain the same thing. Send a letter to the debt collection agency, here is a sample:
If you lost your wallet or purse and need replacement government-issued documents, contact the Social Security Administration for a new social security card, the DMV for a lost driverís license, and the State Department for a lost passport. If your childís identity was stolen, use the same methods as above for him or her.
Watch Your Mail
Mail theft is a common source for identity thieves. Donít let your mail stack up, remove it daily and if you are going to be away from home, get a neighbor to gather it for you or put a stop on it with the U.S. Postal Service.
One thing I personally use and love is called Informed Delivery and it is a free service of the Postal Service. All mail is scanned for delivery, so every morning, I get an email with a picture of each piece of mail coming that day. It wonít give you things like bulk mail or circulars, but you know in advance what is coming to you, and if something is missing, you can report it. Hereís the link to sign up:
Many people think they wonít be a victim of identity theft, but the fact is 3.2 million people had their identity stolen in 2019 in America. Should you find out you are a victim, quickly do the things I outlined above to lessen the damage done
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Just heard about this excellent blog about identity theft his morning on your show. Since this is not a new problem, I have seen many good articles on what to do. But, this is the best and most concise bit of information I have seen in an easy-to understand and what-to-do form. Thank you, Jerry Reynolds!!!!
September 27, 2020 @ 2:28pm
The Car Pro
Greg, thanks so much for the kind words. The anniversary of the Equinox breach reminded me we hadnít covered this is a while. Iím glad you liked it. Feel free to share with anyone who might be able to use it.