In this day and age, stolen identities are more commonplace than stolen goods. Identity theft affects everyone and can lead to debilitating financial consequences if you do not take the proper steps to mitigate it. In this case, the best solution is prevention. But if you are unsuccessful in preventing identity theft, you can still protect yourself by contacting the right authorities.
Ways to prevent identity theft:
What to do if you are a victim of identity theft? Notify!
- Do not carry around important documents, like your birth certificate, passport, or Social Security Card unless necessary. These should be safely stored in your home when not being used.
- Contact your phone company and post office to remove your address, and phone number from marketing lists.
- Unsubscribe from marketing emails to avoid phishing.
- Cancel unused credit cards and only provide your credit card information to trusted sources.
- Pull and review your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies once a year.
- Shred all important documents.
- Avoid sharing your PIN numbers unless necessary.
- Depersonalize PINs and passwords.
What to do if you are a victim of Social Security fraud?
- Notify the fraud divisions of the three credit reporting agencies: Trans Union, Experian, and Equifax. Request that they flag your account and request that creditors call you before issuing new credit accounts.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 or http://www.equifax.com
- Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289 or http://www.tuc.com
- Experian: 1-800-301-7195 or http://www.experian.com
- Notify the police to leave a paper trail.
- Notify your bank and credit card companies and close any affected accounts.
- Notify any involved institutions (e.g. If you are the victim of social security fraud, contact the Social Security Administration)
- Change your PIN numbers and passwords.
- Check your SSA earnings record by calling 1-800-772-1213 and asking for a Form SSA-7004, Request for Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement.
- Contact the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Notify the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 or http://www.consumer.gov.idtheft.
- File a report with the local police and keep a copy of the report for your records.
- Contact the fraud units of the three credit reporting bureaus and request that they flag your account and request that creditors call you before issuing new credit accounts.
- Report fraud for any affected accounts to your creditors.
- Under certain circumstances, the Social Security Administration will assign you a new SSN. To apply, complete Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card.
It is important to remember that identity theft can negatively impact your credit score, ability to qualify for home loans, job prospects, and even your security clearance. The best way forward is to stay vigilant and maintain proper cyber hygiene.