Identity theft has become more rampant in recent years thanks to the introduction of social media — allowing us to be more exposed by having our names, addresses, and other personal information available on the web. Identity theft happens when a criminal steals your personal information to use it fraudulently for their gain. 


The crime of identity theft can take on multiple forms, such as account takeover, new-account fraud, medical identity theft, criminal identity theft, tax-related identity theft, and child identity theft. A scammer can take your data such as names, passwords, birthdays, Social Security numbers, and more to hack into your accounts or create false accounts under your name. 


But what can you do if identity theft happens to you? Here, we list down six steps how you can respond to identity theft:


  1. Check All of Your Financial Accounts

If you suspect that your personal information may have been stolen, the first thing to do is check all your accounts for any suspicious activity. Do a review of all your credit accounts, bank accounts, and any other accounts that you think may have been compromised. It is also best to document your findings, such as if a thief has opened new accounts or if there are any missed payments. 


Then check for changes in your Equifax and TransUnion credit scores and reports with Credit Karma. You can even check if your personal information was exposed to another company’s public data breach with Credit Karma’s identity monitoring tool. 


It’s also best to save statements and receipts as well as make a record of all phone calls with lenders, law enforcement, and credit agencies while getting to the bottom of the problem. 


  1. Identify accounts that were compromised

After going through all of your accounts, it’s time to identify the ones that may have been compromised and make a record of them. It’s best to identify each type of account that is compromised and to take the necessary steps for each account — whether that means to freeze it, put it on hold, or close it down altogether. 


  1. Put Fraud Alerts in Place and Freeze Your Credit Reports

If you’re able to confirm that you’re a victim of identity theft, it’s time to try and prevent any further damage. You can mitigate your risk of more loss by putting fraud alerts in place while putting a freeze on your credit reports. You can contact one of the major consumer credit bureaus to set a fraud alert on your credit reports. 


Once you place a fraud alert on your credit reports, the bureau is required to inform the others, so you don’t have to. Doing so is free, and the fraud alert requests creditors to take additional measures to verify your identity when opening a new account. You can also get an initial fraud alert, which keeps the alert on your file for 90 days, or if you’re a victim of identity theft, you can get an extended alert, which is valid for seven years. 


A credit freeze restricts access to your credit reports so that lenders won’t be able to pull them, preventing new accounts from being opened in your name. Contact each credit bureau individually and ask for a credit freeze to secure each of your credit reports. 


  1. Change Your Passwords

Data breaches are a severe threat that can expose your personal information, and once it’s out there, there is nothing you can do to take it back. That’s why it’s essential to change your passwords after an instance of identity theft or if your information is exposed in a public data breach. 


However, you don’t necessarily have to come up with your password, since it’s much safer to generate a password online. There are many places where you can get an online password with a digital vault that provides a random key. Keep in mind though that the random key shouldn’t be used for more than one site. 


  1. Report Your Information to the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission has a site specifically to deal with identity theft — With this site, you can submit your information along with every piece of evidence you have to let them know what happened. The agency can then help you create an Identity Theft Report and a personal recovery plan and help with letters and forms. 


The FTC supports you along the way, guiding you through each recovery step while monitoring your progress. In many cases, going through this process with the FTC can also save you a trip to the local police station and eliminate the need to file a police report. 


But if you happen to know the person who stole your identity (or might have other information that could help the police), your information was used during an encounter with the police (perhaps while driving or during a traffic stop), or an outside agency like a creditor asks for a police report, you should contact the police to report your identity theft. 


  1. Dispute Fraudulent Activity

By this time, you would’ve checked your accounts, identified what’s been compromised, and have changed your passwords. Now it’s time to fight back and dispute any fraudulent activity. For each account that has been compromised, you will need to notify the company and learn about how they deal with ID theft. 


If you’re contacting the company by phone about a new account opened in your name: 


  • Call the fraud department of the company 
  • Clearly explain that someone has stolen your identity
  • Ask the company to close the fraudulent account
  • Request everything in writing for your records
  • Have the company send you a letter confirming that the fraudulent account is not yours, that it was removed from your credit report and that you aren’t liable for the account. 


If you’re contacting the company by phone to remove fraudulent charges from your account: 


  • Call the fraud department of the company
  • Clearly explain that someone has stolen your identity 
  • Tell them which charges are fraudulent and ask them to remove the charges
  • It is best to have your information handy to discuss fraudulent activity such as dates and charges 
  • Request everything in writing for your records
  • Have the company send you a letter confirming that they have removed the fraudulent charges


But before anything happens, it is best to make sure that you are always protected; after all, there is a saying that prevention is better than a cure. So instead of having to worry about the steps to take in case of identity theft, why not give yourself the advantage of Identity Protection services. Identity Protection services work night and day to make sure that your personal information and details never fall into the wrong hands. They give you a comprehensive line of defense, so you never have to worry about identity theft.