According to a 2018 survey, nearly 60 million Americans have dealt with identity theft at some point in their lives. While many people assume that strangers are the only threat, some people have their identities stolen by someone they know.
Since friends and family typically have access to intimate details about your life, it’s easier for them to accomplish identity theft than many would like to believe.
Being a victim of identity fraud is always hard, but, when the identity theft is by a friend or relative, the blow is crushing. Luckily, you can move forward from this event by following the steps below.
1. Get Your Credit Reports
One of the first things you need to do is review your credit reports from all three bureaus. The easiest way is through AnnualCreditReport.com.
The process is fairly easy. You’ll need to confirm your identity and request your report from each bureau. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each bureau per year.
2. Set up a Fraud Alert
You’ll also need to contact at least one of the three credit bureaus and add a fraud alert. This locks down your account for 30 days, during which time no one can open new credit in your name.
However, if you can provide a police report documenting the issue, you can get a longer-lasting fraud alert; alternatively, you could just set up a reminder on your phone to renew the alert every 30 days.
Even if you aren’t sure if you’re a victim yet, a fraud alert gives you time to sort out the situation safely.
3. Notify the FTC
While federal authorities only pursue larger cases, the FTC monitors all incidents of identity theft. Let the agency know about your situation by filling out an ID theft complaint and affidavit form.
Doing so helps the government spot patterns and find ways to create a more robust system.
4. Call Creditors
Once you know which companies have fraudulent accounts or activity, you need to reach out quickly. Ask to speak with their fraud department and let them know your identity was stolen.
You can request they close or freeze the accounts, ensuring no new charges will occur. In some cases, they’ll require an FTC identity theft report to document your case, so you want to handle that first.
5. Change Your Passwords
Regardless of whether you can confirm any fraudulent activity taking place using your identity or accounts, you’ll want to be proactive about security.
Change all of your online passwords, along with personal identification numbers associated with any cards you might have.
6. File a Police Report
The person who stole your identity isn’t automatically pursued by law enforcement. For that to happen, you need to file a police report.
Bring a copy of your FTC report along with your identification, proof of address (like a utility bill), and any evidence of the theft to your local police department and ask to file a report.
Once the report is complete, make a copy. That way, if a creditor requires that document, you have it available.
7. Monitor Your Credit Report
Signs of identity theft might not show up in any of your credit reports right away — so you’ll want to check them on a regular basis and follow up on anything you dispute.
Consider signing up for any of the free services that enable you to keep tabs on all three bureaus’ reports in one place.
Carefully read your credit reports to see whether any information changes and notify the bureaus of anything that’s amiss.
Provide them with a copy of your FTC identity theft report (if you haven’t done so already). Once they have this document, they have to block any new changes to your records.
8. Contact the Social Security Administration
In some cases, an identity thief uses a person’s Social Security Number to secure employment. If that happened to you, contact your local Social Security Office for assistance.
9. Watch for Crimes in Your Name
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that an identity thief might supply your identifying information after being arrested for a crime.
This is why it’s a good idea to file that police report as soon as you learn of the identity theft — but if you learn of additional crimes being perpetrated with your contact information, you should file an additional report regarding the impersonation.
Provide law enforcement with copies of your ID, a photograph, and your fingerprints. Request that officers compare your information to the criminal’s and remove your name from the records once they confirm you didn’t commit the crime.
With each visit to the police department, make a point of recording the name and contact information of every officer you speak to while resolving the issue.
Request a clearance letter or certificate of release as well. This document says you were innocent. Keep the letter in a safe place.
10. Watch for Tax Theft
Be prepared for the possibility that the identity thief might try to file a fraudulent tax return on your behalf and attempt to claim your refund — file your taxes early so that no one else can horn in on what’s yours.
It’s also a good idea to complete an IRS identity theft affidavit to further prevent any would-be thief from claiming your return.
11. Watch for New Account Openings
Identity thieves may try to open new accounts in your name. They could be credit cards or utilities, for instance.
You can find a comprehensive list of steps to take in these scenarios at IdentityTheft.gov.
Identity Theft by a Friend or Relative
While you typically have to deal with a lot of red tape when trying to minimize the damage caused by identity theft, don’t take any shortcuts: You might not be able to see the full effects of this crime until it’s way too late — because someone who already knows you can cause a lot more problems than a stranger.
When the perpetrator’s a friend or relative, you really need to put in more effort to tamp out the crime. If you can stay the course and be thorough about following all of the steps listed above, you’ll eventually get it taken care of.
Readers, have you ever been a victim of identity theft or fraud — if so, what were your experiences in combatting it? If you haven’t experienced it, what sorts of things are you doing to protect yourself, if anything?
Looking for more information about identity theft? Give these articles a try:
- Why You Don’t Need LifeLock Identity Theft Protection
- Credit Card Fraud Stats – Protect Yourself from Being Scammed
- Beware of Fraudulent Tax Return Scams
- How Paying Off Installment Loans Affects Your Credit Score
- Bad Credit? Get Approved with the Shopping Cart Trick
- Credit Card Delinquencies Soar
- What Is Synthetic Identity Fraud?
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