Do I need to freeze my credit if my identity has been stolen?
Since the advent of the internet, instances of identity theft have become more common with each passing year. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2017 there were over 16.7 million victims of identity fraud, a record high up from previous years. Just recently, some 145 million Americans had their personal information placed at risk due to an Equifax security breach, and millions more are now at risk of identity theft due to security breaches by Target, Chase, and other major corporations. Given the sheer number of those of us at-risk of identity theft, it is imperative that you know that steps to take should your identity become breached. Our Orange County elder law lawyers discuss some essential steps to take should you uncover your identity had been stolen below.
Close Down the Affected Account
Often, the first sign of identity theft will be an unauthorized charge on one of your bank or credit card accounts. It is important that you carefully monitor your accounts so that you can catch the first signs of fraud. When you spot an unusual charge, take immediate action by calling your bank or credit card company and shutting down or locking the account.
Review Your Credit Report
If you have become the victim of a fraudulent charge, once your account is locked down, your next step will be determining whether the problem goes beyond that one account. To accomplish this, you will need to examine your credit report. Request a copy of your credit report from the three major reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. With the reports in hand, closely look for any accounts you do not recognize.
File a Report with the FTC
You should create a paper trail of the identity theft by filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission. You will receive a recovery plan and that could be filed with your local police department, should you pursue this option. The police may not be of much help if your information was stolen by online criminals, but the report could assist in tracking down the perpetrator.
Consider Freezing Your Credit
If your identity has been stolen, you may wish to consider a credit freeze. This will cut off all access to your credit report, so the credit reporting bureaus will not share your information even if requested. This can prove cumbersome if you plan to need your credit in the near future, but could protect you from further theft.