Taking action: what to do if you've fallen victim to identity theft in the US

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Identity theft can be a traumatic experience if you become a victim. However, there are numerous steps you can take to minimize the damage after the event. The US government provides various helpful options to tackle the consequences of an identity theft incident. Investing in one of the best identity theft protection packages is also a good idea.

IdentityTheft.gov is one of the best official places to seek advice about implementing post-identity theft measures. The website provides up-to-date information on all aspects of this relatively common crime. Moreover, it offers a wealth of information that will help you create a personal recovery plan, update it as you progress, and track the steps in getting your credit report back in order.

Using an official advice site like IdentityTheft.gov has the additional benefit of providing pre-filled letters and forms that you can use to contact credit bureaus, businesses, and debt collectors who might need to be notified following an identity theft incident. You'll also have a quick route towards reporting the incident to the Federal Trade Commission.

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The moves to make

It is essential to take immediate action if you are a victim of identity theft. Firstly, if you know who is involved, contact the companies where the fraud occurred and inform them about the situation. Then, close or freeze all affected accounts to prevent any additional charges or costs incurred by criminals.

It is advisable to change all your logins and passwords for any accounts to ensure that cybercriminals cannot access them in the future. You may want to consider investing in a reliable password manager package to update your login details securely and quickly.

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Mitigation checklist

One important task to include in your checklist for identity theft fraud mitigation is placing a fraud alert. You can do this by contacting one of the three main credit bureaus, namely Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax. You only need to inform one bureau, and they will notify the other two. The bureaus will then send you a follow-up letter to confirm that a fraud alert has been placed on your credit file.

It is also possible to obtain a free credit report to check for any potential issues. You can visit annualcreditreport.com for this purpose, and there are no costs involved. Once you have obtained the report, it is essential to thoroughly examine it, and take note of any unusual activity. Record anything that appears to be abnormal and outside of your initiated actions.

Reporting to the FTC

You’ll need to work with the FTC after visiting IdentityTheft.gov or calling 1-877-438-4338 to give them as many details as possible. They can help you create an account and develop a recovery program from there. Having an Identity Theft Report is crucial because it will guarantee you specific rights. In addition, you can file a report with your local police department and give them a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, which will help with the process.

Following these steps, you’ll be able to move to the process of damage limitation, which might involve a lot of effort, although your Identity Theft Report will help smooth the process. For example, if you contact businesses and explain that your identity was stolen, they may request a copy of the report to take the steps involved with restoring your account details.


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How to minimize damage

If criminal activity has occurred, you’ll need to contact the fraud departments of any businesses involved and ask them to remove any bogus charges. You’ll also need to write to the credit bureaus to correct your credit report. This will require you to submit a copy of the Identity Theft Report, proof of your identity, and details of what needs to be amended.

This can be blocked if there is fraudulent information on your credit report. If you have given the credit bureaus the requested information, any fraudulent information on your credit report will not appear. It will also prevent companies from trying to collect the debt from you. So, while this does involve effort on your behalf, it will make a big difference in putting your credit report back to where it was before you became the victim of identity theft.

Another step is to consider adding an extended fraud alert or credit freeze. By doing this, you should be able to stop any other misuse of your data, although you’ll need to compare the difference between the two options to check which option will be best suited to your needs.

Identity theft

Remember that identity theft should not be ignored as it means that somebody is using your personal or financial information for criminal reasons. This could include filing taxes, making purchases, or getting benefits, to name but three examples. On top of that, identity theft doesn't always mean it will affect just you, as criminals are also known to carry out child identity theft and target seniors in their exploits.

Moving forward, it's a good idea to invest in an identity theft protection package, which will allow you to monitor aspects of your data more quickly. This can include keeping tabs on credit reports and locking down your data more effectively. On top of that, if you've yet to get an internet security suite and anti-virus package, then now is the time to do that too.

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Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe is a staff writer at TechRadar, iMore, and wherever Future can use him. Though his passion is Apple-based products, he doesn't have a problem using Windows and Android. Bryan's a single father of a 15-year-old daughter and a puppy, Isabelle. Thanks for reading!

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