Having one’s identity stolen can be an incredibly stressful and confusing experience. Unfortunately, it is a reality that many must face at some point in their lives. For those who are not aware, identity theft involves another individual stealing your personal information, and is typically committed for the purpose of financial gain. The thief may go on to take out a credit card in your name, leave you with a mountain of medical bills, or even commit other crimes using your information. These actions can be detrimental if not handled correctly, which is why our consumer protection attorneys have outlined five key steps to take following the theft of your identity.
1. Secure Your Credit Report
The first step to take from the moment you feel your identity has been compromised is to ensure your credit report is not impacted (or further damaged) by the theft. This will involve contacting either one or all three credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax), depending on the seriousness of the situation. If you are still unsure whether a theft has been committed or the situation is already being resolved, you may elect to simply place a fraud alert on your credit report. To do this, you simply need to contact one of the three reporting agencies. However, for added protection you may choose to place a security freeze on all three reports, which would require contacting all three agencies.
2. File Necessary Reports
The first report you make should be with any institutions who have been directly impacted by the theft. For instance, if your credit card is being used without your consent, the bank that issued the card should be your first call. Monitor all of your accounts closely to determine who needs to be contacted. Then, you will need to file a police report to document the theft and work toward securing justice. From there, you should file an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission. If your social security number has been compromised, you must also call both the Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service to keep the thief from committing more crimes against you.
3. Enlist legal representation
Your next call should be to a consumer protection lawyer in Miami, who can guide you through the process of seeking justice and make sure all necessary actions have been taken. Depending on your situation, there may be additional reports to file or safety measures to take. Your attorney will also play an important role in preventing fraudulent actions from impacting your financial future.
4. Open new accounts
Once you have addressed any damage caused by the theft, it is time to get back on track. For many victims of identity theft, this involves opening new accounts entirely to prevent the criminal from gaining access to your information moving forward. Your financial institutions can help you through this process.
5. Take precautions for the future
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Now that you have overcome identity theft, you need to take the steps to prevent history from repeating itself. Some changes you can make include: using strong passwords that are changed regularly, removing any personal information that could be used to answer security questions from the internet, stowing your social security card in a safe place, and shredding all documents that contain sensitive material. You should also be on alert for scams that may be a ploy to steal your identity. Only provide personal information via the internet when you are sure the website is secure, and only do so over the phone when you are sure the person requesting it is from an institution you trust. Additionally, never click on links or download files in emails from unknown recipients.
If your identify has been stolen, guidance from a reputable consumer protection lawyer in Miami can mean all the difference for securing the optimal outcome. To get insight from our experienced team, schedule a free consultation today. Together, we will work toward justice and recovery.