By Franklin Aguilar and Chris David
You don’t need to go to the bank to deposit money. You don’t need to spend hours waiting to open an account. You don’t have to waste time on the phone or standing in line to do simple tasks. Technology has made everyday tasks easier. But sometimes what is useful and convenient turns out not so secure.
We have written many articles about how to protect your information, but… What should you do if your info has been already compromised? What if someone managed to get your SSN and stole your identity?
If so, you need to act quickly. You need to do something NOW! Here are six steps you can follow, in order, to regain control of your identity and your life.
1) Contact your local police
WHY: A criminal party can use your identity to open bank accounts, loans and credit cards in your name. Someone can even open new phone lines, make online purchases, file tax returns, collect tax refunds, launder money, get medical care and pay for illicit activities. All in your name. Any new accounts and criminal activities performed under the stolen identity will be related to you.
HOW: By Phone. Look up the non-emergency number for your local department and give them a call.
2) Report the theft to the IRS
WHY: The identity thief could file your return for you and collect your tax refund. Reporting the incident to the IRS will stop the thief in their tracks.
HOW: Call 1-800-908-4490, or use the IRS web site.
3) Place a fraud alert on your credit
WHY: This will show a red flag to potential lenders and financial institutions. When opening new lines of credit, any lender will be required to ask for additional proof of identity. This makes things more difficult for the thief! To place a fraud alert, you must provide a police report or other documents from law enforcement (see Step One). All three credit bureaus will be notified, in the case of a fraud alert. If you need to open new credit, you can temporarily disable the alert.
HOW: Call, or use the credit bureau online reporting tools.
4) Freeze your credit
WHY: Freezing your credit is the strongest way to protect your identity. Thanks to federal law, this is now a free service and will not affect your credit score. Unfortunately, you will have to request a credit freeze at all three credit bureaus separately. If you want to apply for new credit in the future, you can unfreeze your credit with the PIN number from each credit freeze. For security reasons, we strongly advise using three different PIN numbers for each bureau.
HOW: Online. See the credit bureau sites.
5) Notify the Federal Trade Commission
WHY: This is a free government tool that will help you create a recovery plan. You can learn about additional steps to regain control of your identity. This FTC tool will also produce a document that can be used in court or to dispute charges and other credit issues.
HOW: By phone at 1-877-438-4338, or online https://www.identitytheft.gov.
6) Change your passwords
WHY: Your identity may have been stolen by way of a compromised password. Most important are: your computer and device passwords, your email accounts, phone plans and all accounts for banks/financial institutions.
HOW: Manually and one by one, unfortunately. To make your life easier in the future, think about getting a password manager. A password manager will help you be more secure, use unique passwords everywhere and keep better track of your online life!
When you’re finished with the critical items, then it’s a good idea to review your other online accounts. Change your home WiFi network passcode. If you have any “smart” devices in your home, like cameras, speakers, locks, doorbells, etc… Change those too! If you can, change both usernames and passwords for all your accounts. Using Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, company websites? Review the accounts, and if you’re not using it, delete it.
Identity theft will have serious repercussions for your life and your credit. But if you follow these steps and tackle the problem quickly, you can be on the way to recovery. If you have any questions or need a cybersecurity risk analysis for your business, contact the security experts at ComputerKick.