Here's What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

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Gaetano DiNardi

Head of Content at Aura

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    Your Identity Was Stolen. Now What?

    Maybe you noticed strange charges on your credit card. Or, you got a call about a loan you didn't take out or unemployment benefits you didn't claim.

    Or, like in my case, your phone was stolen and you were suddenly locked out of your email, online banking, and other sensitive accounts.

    Whatever caused you to realize that your identity was stolen, you need to act fast.

    Cases of identity theft have more than doubled in the past two years with victims losing $5.9 billion, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [*].

    So, what do you do when you realize a scammer has stolen your identity?

    Here's How To Recover From Identity Theft (11 Steps)

    1. Contact your identity theft insurance provider

    The first thing you should do once you realize your identity has been stolen is call your identity theft insurance provider (if you have one).

    Some employers offer identity theft protection as a benefit. Or, you might already be signed up for a service like Aura.

    Why should this be your first call?

    At Aura, our White Glove identity theft resolution teams will walk you through every necessary step to secure your identity and restore your credit. We'll even provide you with the right documents and get on the phone with you and your bank or other fraud departments to help sort out the situation.

    Plus, every Aura customer is covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft. Resolving identity theft can be confusing. If you have coverage, use it.

    2. Call your bank and credit card issuer

    If you don't have identity theft insurance, the first call you should make is to your bank and credit card company. Ask to talk to their fraud department and tell them you're an identity theft victim.

    They'll walk you through the next steps, such as canceling your accounts and setting up new accounts.

    You can also use this fraud victim's checklist to make sure you're taking the necessary steps to protect your credit score.

    Check for a phone number on the back of your credit card. If your credit card was stolen or lost, here's how to contact most major credit card companies in the U.S.:

    • Visa: 1-800-847-2911
    • Mastercard: 1-800-627-8372 (1-800-MASTERCARD)
    • Chase: 1-800-432-3117
    • Capital One: 1-800-227-4825 (1-800-CAPITAL)
    • Citibank: 1-800-950-5114
    • Bank of America: 1-800-732-9194
    • Discover: 1-800-347-2683 (1-800-DISCOVER)
    • American Express: 1-800-528-4800

    3. Contact any company where you know an identity thief used your identity

    You should immediately contact all companies and lenders where the identity thief used your identity.

    Ask them to freeze the fraudulent account to stop further damage. Then, ask them to send you a letter that states:

    • The account isn't yours and wasn't opened by you.
    • You're not liable for purchases made on the account.
    • That they've removed the fraudulent charges.
    • That the fraudulent account and charges have been removed from your credit report.

    Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to dispute inaccurate information from your credit report.

    4. Place a fraud alert or consider freezing your credit

    Contact any of the three credit-reporting agencies and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

    A fraud alert adds an extra level of security by forcing companies to verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name. The alert will stay active for a year and can be renewed for up to seven years. An extended fraud alert can help protect you from repeat identity theft.

    Here's how to contact each credit bureau:

    A credit freeze goes a step beyond and stops anyone from accessing your credit report. This means that an identity thief can't open a new line of credit in your name.

    Unlike a fraud alert where you only have to contact one bureau, you'll need to reach out to each of the three credit bureaus and place a credit freeze with them.

    5. Review your credit report

    Next, you’ll want to look through your credit report for fraudulent activity.

    When you set up a fraud alert, you’ll automatically get access to one free credit report from each agency.

    Otherwise, you can request a copy at AnnualCreditReport.com. 

    Scan your credit report for anything that looks suspicious of unfamiliar, including: 

    • Fraudulent accounts
    • Loans you didn’t take out (mortgage, student loans, vehicle, etc.) 
    • Inaccurate personal information
    • Hard credit inquiries you didn’t request
    • Accounts that are in collections

    Make note of all these as you’ll need to dispute each one to get them off your credit file. 

    Related: Did You Accidentally Give a Scammer Your SSN? Here's What To Do!

    6. File an official identity theft report with the FTC 

    Gather your information and file an official Identity Theft Affidavit with the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov.

    The FTC's 3-step plan for identity theft victims
    Source: IdentityTheft.gov

    An FTC report is an essential part of recovering from identity theft. Based on your background, they'll provide a recovery plan and an official record to prove to businesses that your identity was stolen.

    Here's what you'll need before you submit your report:

    • Your full legal name
    • Date of birth.
    • Social Security Number (SSN)
    • Driver's license number
    • Current address and how long you've lived there for
    • Phone number
    • Email address

    The FTC also has a database of forms and letter templates you can use to dispute fraudulent transactions and help clear your name.

    Related: How Long Does It Take To Recover From Identity Theft?

    7. Contact local law enforcement and file a claim

    You also need to file a police report for identity theft in certain situations, such as:

    • You know the person who committed the crime.
    • You have information that could aid a police investigation.
    • Your identity was used during a crime or police interaction (i.e., criminal identity fraud).
    • Your financial institution or insurance company requires a police report.

    Call the non-emergency number and ask to be connected to the fraud department. They'll most likely ask for a copy of your FTC identity theft report. You'll also need a government-issued photo ID, proof of address, and any specific evidence of identity theft.

    8. Dispute fraudulent transactions and close accounts

    When identity thieves use your identity to take out loans or make purchases, it can cause serious damage to your credit score. Unfortunately, the process of repairing your credit after identity theft can be time-consuming.

    Here are a few of the steps you'll need to take:

    • For incorrect information on your credit report: As a victim of identity theft, you have the right to remove incorrect information from your credit report. This includes unrecognized accounts, hard inquiries, or personal information. Write to each credit bureau using this FCRA compliant letter template. This requires them to act within 30 days of receiving the letter.
    • For fraudulent checking accounts: Order a free copy of your ChexSystems report and look for any fraudulent accounts. You'll then need to contact those financial institutions and ask them to close the accounts.
    • If identity thieves has taken out loans in your name: If you're the victim of loan fraud, you'll need to contact the affected institutions and inform them of the fraud. They'll most likely need to see your FTC and police reports.
    • If someone is writing bad checks in your name: Contact your bank and ask them to initiate a Stop Payment and close the bank account. Ask them to also report the theft to their check verification system so that businesses don't accept them.
    • If your fraudulent debt has been sent to collections: Use this FTC letter template to contact debt collectors who contact you. This will eventually remove the fraudulent debt from your credit report.

    9. Update all your passwords and add 2FA (but not SMS)

    Passwords are often your first — and only — line of defense against identity theft.

    First, make sure all of your passwords are difficult enough that they can't be easily hacked. Secure passwords are at least eight characters long and include numbers, upper and lower case letters, and symbols.

    How long it takes for a password to get cracked
    Source: Reddit

    To keep your passwords organized, you should also get a secure password manager. This is a simple tool that securely stores all your passwords so you can access them quickly and not worry that you might forget them.

    Next, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on all your accounts. This is an added security step that requires a one-time-use code along with your username and password. However, don't use SMS for your 2FA codes. Unfortunately, SMS two-factor authentication codes can easily be compromised.

    Instead, use an authenticator app like Google Authenticator or Okta.

    Related: I Got Scammed on Facebook Marketplace

    10. Scan your devices for malware and set up antivirus protection

    Identity thieves will often trick you into downloading malware onto your devices. Malware is a type of cyber attack that allows hackers to steal your personal information, see everything on your devices, or even track keystrokes as you enter passwords and usernames.

    Use antivirus software to scan your devices for malware and isolate them so they can't do harm.

    For example, Aura's antivirus with VPN secures your devices and your Wi-Fi networks from hackers. This is especially important when you're on public Wi-Fi; these networks are notoriously easy to hack. Be cautious of any links you receive in emails and texts — even if they're from someone claiming to be from a company or organization you trust.

    11. Protect your family from identity theft

    Almost 30% of people who have their identities stolen are repeat victims. Just because you've recovered from identity theft, doesn't mean you're safe.

    Aura's identity theft protection keeps you and your family's accounts, devices, and online lives safe and secure.

    With Aura you get:

    • Financial fraud protection. We'll monitor your credit and bank accounts in near-real time and alert you of fraud four times faster than the competition. Plus, you can instantly lock your Experian credit file with one click.
    • Identity protection and online account security. We'll tell you if an account has been compromised, monitor your Social Security number for fraud, and reduce the spam calls you receive. Aura is a go-to tool to prevent identity theft.
    • Antivirus and Wi-Fi protection for all your devices. This includes a VPN with military-grade encryption and malware protection to protect you from hackers.
    • Family identity theft monitoring for up to five people including children and adults. It's one of the most convenient ways to avoid child identity theft.
    • $1,000,000 in coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft. If the worst happens, we'll be there to walk you through securing your identity.

    Related: The Top 10 LifeLock Competitors & Alternatives For 2022

    The Bottom Line: Act Fast After Identity Theft

    Identity theft happens more often than we'd like. If a criminal has targeted you, act fast. Contact every company and agency that's been impacted, file a report, and start down the road to recovery.

    For ultimate protection, sign up for Aura. We'll monitor your banking and online accounts for you and alert you in near-real time of any suspicious activity. And if the worst happens, our experienced identity theft resolution team is here to help 24/7. Plus, you're covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft.

    Ready for ironclad identity theft protection? Try Aura free for 14 days.

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers