Have you been a victim of identity theft? Do you know someone who was? Chances are you answered yes to at least one of these questions. According to CNN, every two seconds another American becomes a victim of identity theft – and it’s growing rapidly!
There are clear steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft before it occurs, but what about after it has already taken place? Consumers should be made aware that most homeowner or renters insurance policies don’t cover much, if any money stolen from property, and none of the money stolen from a bank. Once the damage is done, you can still manage its impact by following these key tips to stop the damage from going any further.
Check your bank accounts daily
The few minutes of your day it will take to diligently check your bank accounts, is well worth the price of fraudulent spending cleaning out your savings. Beyond just spotting ID theft, this practice will also help you spot erroneous fees or mistakes made when depositing checks. Online platforms, such as mint.com, can help you aggregate all of your different bank accounts into one location where you can view them seamlessly. This daily practice will ensure ID theft will have no more than 24 hours impact on your bank account, increasing your chances of getting all of your stolen funds restored.
Check your credit score three times per year
While you’ve likely seen commercials out there for all sorts of credit score companies, keep in mind that there are just three main credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You should run your credit score with them each once per year. Spread these out over the year, so you are checking your credit every four months. Checking all main credit bureaus will give you the full picture of your credit, so you can spot anything that appears fraudulent. The sooner you catch these errors, the sooner you can report them to the bureau and restore your credit.
Set alerts on spending
One of the best ways to catch ID theft in real-time is to set alerts on any spending from your bank accounts or charges to your credit card. Most banks or credit card companies will monitor your account for what appears to be fraudulent spending, but this may not be enough to catch a sophisticated ID theft. Take matters into your own hands and get an email alert for any time a card is used. These may result in a few extra emails a day, but it’s easier to delete these emails than to recover money lost due to ID theft.
Change all passwords on important accounts
Once you see fraudulent charges occur, it’s safest to assume the ID theft has all of your sensitive information. Immediately change your passwords for all bank accounts, email accounts, government accounts, social media and PayPal. This is one of the fastest and smartest ways to reduce the impact of ID theft. Additionally, don’t reset your password to something obvious or something you’ve recently used for another account.
Send creditors and credit reporting agencies a copy of your ID theft report
Once ID theft takes place, you should share copies of your ID theft report with your creditors and credit report agencies so they can note the fraudulent charges as such and remove the impact these would otherwise have on your credit score.
Escalate things to the police or FTC
If after you have taken all of the actions listed above and the fraudulent activity continues to occur, it may be time to take your case to the police or Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Usually the entities only get involved if the case is extremely sophisticated, but yours just might be. With their resources, you have a better shot at restoring your identity and the money or credit you may have lost in the process.
The good news is there are services and insurance out there that can offer you some additional peace of mind. Companies like LifeLock and IDShield offer subscriptions to closely monitor your private information and alert you of any potential threats. However, these services are by no means a guarantee you will never experience identity theft. Additionally, you can usually add on ID theft expense coverage as part of your homeowners’ insurance policy for about $30 a year. While this doesn’t cover the actual money stolen as the result of ID theft, it does provide up to $25,000 to cover the cost of hiring an attorney, credit recovery and monitoring service, and pay for time off work related to getting your ID back.
Remember, the best safeguard against ID theft is using precaution, closely monitoring your bank accounts and credit score, and taking action immediately if anything looks out of place.
What other questions or tips do you have related to identity theft? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!