Being online today can expose people to both positive and negative things. And while the positive may outweigh the negative, it can definitely be a scary and traumatic experience if one becomes a victim of hackers and other fraudulent people. It is for this very reason that internet users need to take the necessary precautions every time they’re online to protect themselves including their identity.
Identity theft cases have been growing in recent years and in the U.S. alone, an estimated 15 million residents have been victimized each year. Specifically, some seven percent of all adults have their identities misused resulting in thousands of dollars in losses.
People with dark motives now utilize sophisticated technology to achieve their goals. And if internet users don’t arm themselves with the right knowledge and fail to follow best practices regarding online security, they can have their assets, credit and reputation badly damaged without them knowing it.
In the event you become a victim of identity theft, be sure to take immediate steps to prevent further problems.
Report to Authorities
Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) right away to report your problem. You can reach them online or via a toll free telephone number at 1-877-438-4338 o 1-866-653-4251.
The FTC is tasked to receive and process complaints of people related to all kinds of identity theft cases and refer them to the right departments and agencies involved such as credit card firms and law enforcement authorities.
For cases involving specific personal IDs, you may contact the concerned agency such as the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service and your own credit card company.
Freeze your Accounts
As time is an important element here, make sure to act fast and contact your banks, creditors, phone companies and utility firms to request for a freezing of your accounts. Inform them of what happened to avoid being charged the unnecessary fees. You may then ask for a replacement of your existing cards after confirming of the identity theft case.
Check your Credit Report
Request for a credit report and check if new accounts were opened using your name. Do take note, however, that new accounts will only show up in the report after six months so it’s best to keep track of developments.
The 3-in-1 credit report is the best one to request as this covers your credit history as monitored by the three major credit reporting firms.
Contact Credit Reporting Agencies
Another step you can take is to ask a credit reporting agency to put a fraud alert on your file. This will notify you should new accounts be opened using your identity.
Place Security Freeze on your Credit File
If you want to be sure your credit file is not affected, you may place a security freeze on your Equifax file. This may not be available in all states, though, so you need to do some research first and find out the fees involved when opting for this action.
A security freeze ensures that your Equifax credit file is not given out to third parties. Third parties include credit grantors as well as other companies and agencies.
Image via sheknows
About the guest author:
Sara Wells is a blogger who writes on behalf of companies such as Protectyourbubble.com ID theft provider.