We all make mistakes one time or another, but sometimes those mistakes can cost us a good amount of money and psychological problems.
There is nothing wrong with making a mistake one time or another because let’s face it, no one can be one hundred percent careful all the time. Sometimes, you aren’t looking hard enough and some cyber criminals and hackers are able to slip through the cracks without you knowing and cause some serious damage.
Before you know it, your credit report has been tampered with and contains accounts that you never opened on your behalf. It is also very possible that your credit card might get charged with illegal transactions that you never made.
All of this points to the fact that some cyber criminal out there has been using your credit card without your approval and has been making withdrawals from your account. When someone gains illegal access to your credit card, you’ll see your checks get bounced or even see several medical prescriptions on your medical history that weren’t there before. That is, they don’t belong to you.
If all this is happening to you or has happened to you then you may be the victim of an identity theft.
What to do when your identity has been stolen and you have been the victim of a bad case of identity theft?
Well, first off, you need to relax and think about your options clearly and in a composed manner. You’ve already lost a good bit of money because of the identity theft, so the worst thing you could do to yourself right now it to panic and push buttons that don’t need to be pushed yet.
So calm yourself and come to a relaxed state of mind. I know, this sounds difficult and probably is when you know that a is munching away at your hard earned money every minute you don’t do something about it, but trust me, this is the best possible way forward.
Ok, now to the part where you actually do something to stop that special someone from running away with your money.
The answer to this problem varies a lot depending on where you live. That’s the truth of the whole matter.
But worry not, below you’ll find the list of countries where you’ll find the specific instructions you need to follow in order to put yourself on the path of recovery or at least put a stop to the identity theft.
We’ve selected the most common countries where cases of identity theft usually take place and these include the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
If you reside in any other place than the ones mentioned above then this guide might not be specifically for you, but you could still follow the general tips in your own country to recover from an unfortunate case of identity theft.
So let’s get to it and stop the cybercriminal behind your identity theft.
What If I Live In The United States Of America.
The first and the most logical thing to do when you have found out that you have been the victim of an identity theft is to order a fraud alert as far as your credit reports are concerned.
To do that, you can get in touch with one of the three major national credit bureaus, namely,
You need to contact one of these and then let them know that some cybercriminal or hacker out there is misusing your credit card and making transactions in your name that you have no involvement with.
You will also need to clearly indicate to these credit bureaus that a cybercriminal or a hacker is also mishandling and abusing your financial and personal information.
There is a not a lot of work left on your part since in the United States of America, by law, if you inform one of the credit bureaus of your predicament then that credit bureau will have to inform the other two on its own.
In other words, all you need to do is to inform one of the credit bureaus and the rest will be taken care of by that specific bureau which you informed in the first place. So contact the credit bureau of your choice and then tell them all the details necessary.
You might as well ask, what’s the benefit of informing a single or even multiple credit bureaus?
Well, firstly, when you inform a credit bureau of your situation, you’re engaging the relevant authorities for initial fraud alert.
When that happens, it becomes much more difficult for the cyber criminal or the hacker to open more credit account on your behalf and hurt you with more money withdrawals.
You should also know that an initial fraud alert lasts about 90 days.
Whenever you have been a victim of an identity theft, the initial fraud alert should be your first line of defense.
But if you want to take it up a notch then you can also implement a credit freeze. A credit freeze will further block the criminal from running away with your money but this action alone will cost you around $10 if you live in the United States of America.
The amount may vary just a little bit depending on which state you currently reside in, but it is always a safe bet to go for the upper limit.
As mentioned before, credit freezes are an advanced form of blocking thieves from making out with your hard earned money. Credit freezes basically prevent all creditors from having access to your credit file.
Why is that good you may ask?
Well, with a credit freeze in place, no one can have access to your credit report no matter who they are. This could lead to some problems as well because a credit freeze will not only block outsiders from having access to your credit file but it will also prevent companies that you have legitimately subscribed to from gaining access to your credit report in a timely manner.
After you have done that then, your next step should always be ordering your credit reports to measure the extent of the damage done.
Again, this is where living in the United States of America has so many perks. By law, if you live in the United States of America you can actually request a single credit report from all of the national credit bureaus for your own record. And you can do that without incurring any charge.
Of course, free credit reports are only available once per year without charge, but since you have been a victim of identity theft, it is better if you just go ahead and make use of the provision right now.
What you might not know is that when you place a fraud alert with any of the credit bureaus, you quality or rather become entitled to a supplementary credit report from each of the national credit bureau.
So if you want to then go ahead and do that.
What will your credit report contain?
Well, it will contain the name of all the accounts that have been opened in your name in a specific amount of time that has been passed. To act against any mismanagement (which is likely since you have been a victim of an identity theft) you will need to contact those businesses where the cyber criminal opened up accounts under your name and then explain to the relevant authorities what took place. You will need to request them to close the newly opened accounts and while you’re at it, it is always a good idea to start talking about potential refunds if that is possible at all.
At this moment, it is also a good time to ask for a return receipt so that you have in your record some proof of communication with the relevant business and try to follow up with them in writing in the future for further help.
Last but not the least, now should be the time that you should start to make an identity theft report.When you have created your identity theft report, you must present this identity theft report to the relevant businesses you made contact with in the previous step. You must do that in order to proof to them that your identity was indeed compromised and undermined and as a result was misused by some cybercriminal or hacker.
This is a very important step since it will allow the companies and the businesses where the criminal opened up a new account under your name, to remove the fake charges and stop these companies from charging you money in the future as well.
Do keep in mind that if for some reason you think you need to extend the period of your initial fraud alert by an additional 90 days then you can do that by producing another identity theft report. Some authorities and organizations may require that identify theft report so keep one close by.
After that, it is a good idea to visit https://identitytheft.gov/ and then submit a formal complaint to the FTC.
When you have done that then print out an affidavit of the filed report when you have finished inputting all the necessary details.
Done? Great. Hang on there since we’re in the final stages of completing the process of reporting an identity theft to all the relevant authorities.
Now, you need to file a police report. When you have filed a police report, write down the police report number for future reference and if possible at all, don’t forget to ask for a copy of the report.
Remember that you will need to have the affidavit from the previous step with you when you want to file a police report.
If you have followed all the steps mentioned above correctly and preferably in order, then you should have the affidavit and the police report with you at this very moment.
If you have both the documents with you right now, then congratulations, you have completed your identity theft report.
But hang on for just a second if you thought that the process was done and dusted with. There are still some things left to do.
You have gone through the major portion of filing for an identity theft but the rest of process depends on how much information was compromised and which accounts were stolen by the cyber criminal or the hacker.
You will need to put in a bit of work in order to challenge for errors with your credit reports and the companies behind those credit reports. You will also need to talk with your banks and credit card companies.
You should also try to cancel and replace your current credit cards since those might be compromised as well. You might have already realized this by now, but identity theft is a big deal and the victims usually have to do a lot of cleaning up before everything goes back to being normal.
So make sure you’re in the clear with your debt collectors and other companies. Always write down and keep a record of the communications you have with your dispute entities and never forget to follow up with the relevant authorities.
That was basically it if you were the victim of an identity theft and were living in the United States of America. For the next edition of this post we’ll take a look at what to do if the same thing happens to you in other countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada or Australia.
So stay tuned for the future parts of this multi-part series.
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