While I, thankfully, have not personally been a victim of identity theft I have a friend who has. And I can tell you from his and his family’s experience that it made their life extremely inconvenient for several years. It seems like almost every week the news outlets are covering a data breach at a well known business where literally hundreds of thousands of customers personal information is stolen. According to the FBI’s 2018 Identity Fraud Report 6.64% of U.S. adults were victims of identity theft in 2017. This is up by approximately 1 million victims over 2016. Yet the data also points out that too many Americans are not taking identity theft seriously. Further, according to the FBI, approximately half of U.S. adults don’t think they are likely to ever experience identity theft as they believe poor credit makes them unattractive targets. In addition, while most people believe credit monitoring and alerts could help prevent identity theft, few people take advantage of these protection programs.
There are numerous downsides to being victimized by identity theft. By using your personal data, an identity thief can open new credit accounts or apply for unsecured loans. Identity theft can also damage your credit report jeopardizing any future applications for credit cards, loans, or even jobs. As a result, if you suspect that someone has gotten their hands on your Social Security number or another critical piece of identifying information and may be trying to steal your identity, you will need to act fast to limit any potential damage.
Unfortunately, criminals are getting more sophisticated in their identity theft attacks and using more complex and difficult to detect monetization schemes which makes it that much more difficult to prevent and detect. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to minimize the damage of identity theft if you act quickly and decisively.
The first thing to do in an identity theft scenario is to add a 90-day fraud alert to your credit report. This will flag any lenders or creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts. You may also want to consider a credit freeze, however there several steps to this process and also cost involved. You will also want to review your credit report to see if anything unfamiliar appears on it. You can get a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus every 12 months and then dispute anything that was not generated by yourself. Next, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Reporting website IdentityTheft.org to file a report. The FTC will walk you through your report, direct you to the right recovery resources and help build an individual identity theft response plan to get you back on track. This report will document the identity theft and extend the fraud alert for seven years. It will also help if you need to file a police report or provide proof of identity theft to anyone else.
After you file an identity theft report with the FTC, you will be issued an Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit. This affidavit will cover the following items:
- What kind of identity theft you are reporting.
- Has the identity thief already used your personal data? And if so, how?
- Do you know the individual who stole your identity
You will also want to list any personal data (such as credit card numbers, email addresses or your Social Security number) after an identity theft scenario. Keep the list as a hard copy or digital file for accurate recordkeeping for law enforcement officials and for creditors working on your behalf in an identity theft investigation.
You will also want to let any creditors know if there were fraudulent accounts created in your name. In addition, it’s a good idea to let your existing lenders and banks know about the fraud so that they can keep an eye out for any red flags of additional theft.
Review all of your bank account documentation in the days and weeks and even months after a cybersecurity breach and also report the fraud to the appropriate state and federal agencies such as:
- Drivers license fraud, the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles
- Social Security number fraud, the FTC and Social Security Administration
- Passport fraud, the U.S. State Department
- Tax fraud, the FTC and IRS
- Mail theft, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Lastly, if you think any of your accounts have been breached, change all of your passwords immediately.
Based on my friend’s personal experience with identity theft, the sad fact is that repairing a damaged credit report can take months, if not years and may cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in out of pocket expenses. And even though it can take a lot of legwork, paperwork and patience, it’s essential to get to the bottom of what’s going on in order to protect your name and credit.
If you have any questions about this article or if I can be of assistance to you with your investment portfolio please feel free to call me at 480-296-9556.
Rudy Eidenbock, Financial Advisor, RJFS, Office: 480-307-9909, Cell:480-295-9556, Fax:480-907-1413, 4111 E. Valley Auto Dr. #104, Mesa, Arizona 85206, www.puritywealthadvisors.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purity Wealth Advisors is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services Inc. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors Inc. The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Rudy Eidenbock and not necessarily those of Raymond James.
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