If You’re a Victim of Identity Theft, Follow These 4 Steps for Recovery
27 March 2016
Becoming a victim of identity theft often leaves people feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed and worried about their financial future. These emotions can be gripping, making it difficult to think clearly and establish a plan of action to take back your peace of mind.
At Identity Guard, we’re here to help. If your identity has been compromised, these four steps can help you protect your credit from further damage and start to regain what you have lost.
- Secure your accounts
If you suspect your identity has been compromised, your first step should be to contact any financial institutions where you have accounts that may have been affected, such as credit card companies, banks or creditors. Connect with their fraud department if possible, and explain that you believe your identity may have been stolen. They will help you secure or close your accounts as necessary to deter further fraud.
At this stage, you may request a freeze be placed on your credit, which would stop anyone attempting to make new charges to your account unless you agree. You should also ask for replacement bank, credit or debit cards with new numbers. Finally, be sure to change the PINs associated with these cards, as well as the passwords to any online accounts associated with the compromised lines of credit.
- Request a fraud alert
Next, it’s time to contact the credit bureaus directly and request a fraud alert be placed on your credit file. At no cost to the consumer, a fraud alert makes it more difficult for anyone to open a new credit account in your name. The two bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, work together to ensure fraud alerts are placed on both accounts, so you only need to reach out to one of them to request the alert. While you’re on the phone with the bureau, also ask that it send you a copy of your credit report. Even if you have already used your free copy for the year, it’s important to review the file and look for any additional activity you don’t recognize.
- Report the event
Once you’ve had a chance to tighten the security around your accounts, reach out to both your local law enforcement agency and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) to report the incident. Your local police force will provide you with a police report, and the CAFC is likely to provide documentation as well — hold onto these for future reference, as they can help you prove the fraud took place if need be.
- Repair the damage
Now that the dust has started to settle, it’s time to reverse the damage the fraudsters levied on your accounts. You can work with your creditors to close any new accounts the identity thieves may have opened in your name and remove fraudulent charges from your existing lines of credit, both of which can help you correct your credit report and regain your borrowing power. So-called credit repair companies may look like tempting ways to fix your credit in a pinch, but they cannot do anything to your accounts you cannot do yourself.
The above steps will be more effective at mitigating the damage and risk of fraud the sooner you’re able to get started after the ID theft has occurred. By signing up for a credit monitoring service like Identity Guard, you can receive notifications when we spot certain activity on your accounts that may indicate fraud, giving you a head start as you further protect your identity.