How do you bounce back from identity theft? In today’s technological world, your personal and financial information often sits exposed — and ID thieves employ many methods to profit if they lay hands on your Social Security number (SSN), to name just one of your many types of personal information. Some common frauds associated with ID theft are misuse of existing credit cards, bank accounts and personal information.
This growing crime wave doesn’t stop there: ID thieves may also try to file a tax return under your SSN to claim the refund, apply for credit cards or even access your investment accounts.
You probably feel overwhelmed reading all the news articles and published data regarding ID theft, but few of these resources offer advice for what you can do if your ID becomes compromised. Although no one can guarantee a full recovery, you can come back financially. Have a plan in place, take action immediately and start with these steps:
Contact the companies where you know fraud occurred. Reach out to each company’s fraud department and explain that you believe someone stole your information. Submit a request asking the company to close or freeze your accounts to prevent thieves from adding new charges; many banks, financial institutions and companies might also now contact you if they spot suspicious activity on one of your accounts.
Change the login information for each of your accounts, including passwords and personal identification numbers.
Request your report. You can get one report for free at Annualcreditreport.com; you may purchase an extra report for an additional fee from one of the three big credit agencies:
- Equifax (800-685-1111)
- Experian (877 FACT-ACT)
- TransUnion (800-888-4213)
Once you request your report, ask the agency to put a fraud alert on your credit information.
Next, report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); one method is the agency’s online complaint form. Provide as many details as possible, noting transactions you don’t recognize from your credit report. You can also call (877) 438-4338 to file your report.
File a report with your local police. Visit the FTC’s website to get a list of the documents you need to submit such as your driver’s license and proof of address, as well as a guide for creating your complete ID theft report.
Resolving taxes. If the Internal Revenue Service or your local tax authority rejected your tax return due to a compromised SSN, you need to notify the IRS via Form 14039, an “Identity Theft Affidavit.” In addition to completing this form electronically (and providing the necessary identification), you must file a paper version with your tax forms.
Clearing up investment accounts. Check with your investment advisor, bank or broker/dealer about additional protections on your investment and savings accounts.
Depending on your situation, you can take additional steps to recover your information and alleviate the theft’s effect. The FTC provides helpful education, including immediate access to resources for reporting the crime to authorities.
ID theft can be scary and overwhelming. The faster you can react, though, the better your chances of stopping imposters from doing further damage.
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Sheila Handrick, CFP, CRPC, is a consultant with Wipfli Hewins Investment Advisors LLC in Madison, Wis.
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