No one wants to have their identity stolen. Unluckily, it’s a risk most of the world has to experience these days. Javelin Strategy & Research reported that there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud in 2017. This staggering number represents a demand for a better defense system for businesses and individuals alike. So, what is the best procedure for those who have already been victimized or are ready to prepare themselves?
The resources available are relatively of a double-edged sword. There are many options and reports to fill out, which can be thorough but also time-consuming. It can also be overwhelming not knowing where to start. This will hopefully present you for an easier overview of what you can do to disable the threat imposed upon you.
Foremost, take a deep breath and relax. There are a substantial number of support systems for this particular subject. And, since panicking never immensely help anybody, you could at least do yourself a favor and allow your mind to be clear of cluttered anxiety. Now let’s get to work.
The primary step to take after falling a victim to identity theft is to contact the establishments of which you feel you have been attacked. Many institutions (especially financial related ones) have established a protocol for such anticipated events. It is also highly recommended to check your credit report and file a Fraud Report to any of the official credit bureaus. (links to these can be found at www.identitytheft.org). After this, get in contact with the Federal Trade Commission at 1 (877) 438-4338, or www.FTC.gov, to file a report. Also, a local police report wouldn’t hurt either.
The last chunk of steps may seem a little paralyzing, especially with all of the reports to fill out, but these are likely the most important of all when you are already neck-deep in identity fraud.
The next thing you should presumably do is to consider all of the possible places you have given out sensitive information. What bills have you paid? What emails have you opened? Where have you fill out forms that required a social security number? Did any of these seem fraudulent, or did you send information on an unprotected server? You may need to close any recently opened accounts. If necessary, scrutinize any bogus charges or alerts on these accounts. Report them to the institutions, explaining your situation. If possible, ask for a report, in writing, stating that the charges were indeed fraudulent and ask them to work with you regarding your situation.
Have you recently changed your passwords? Some common mistakes are using “universal passwords,” or one password for all or most of your accounts. If so, change all of your passwords, and refrain from using even a part of your social security number or birthday. If you are worried about forgetting them, you may consider using a closed-system document for passwords in a hidden location. Or some keep an envelope in their filing cabinet with this information. Either way, find a system that works for you and be sure to update whenever a password or username is changed.
There are many options available to help you recuperate from identity theft. However, there is still one more thing we can all do; we can defend ourselves with preventative measures. Although we can’t ensure protection from anything all the time, we can at least mitigate the risk of falling victim to identity theft. Forbes.com cited, “we can’t change human nature, but we can change technology to cut down on the shockingly high number of consumers who fall victim to an attack. ” Myriad companies are improving their game to try to keep up with this pervasive issue.
Like a virus that attacks the body, hackers are getting smarter and stronger. Fortunately, the pendulum swings both ways. Just as the bad guys are ramping up their technology, so are the good guys. We can rest assured everything can work out for the best if we prepare our devices, our accounts, and our lives.