It’s a nightmare we all share: you wake up one day to realize that someone is draining your accounts and making fraudulent charges to your credit cards. Having your identity stolen can be a stressful experience, and more than likely it isn’t one that you prepared for. It can be difficult to know what to do, but don’t panic! With a little help, you will get through this with your life and your finances intact.
Time is of the essence here to shut the thief down and limit the damage they are able to do. Act immediately and aggressively to mitigate the problem and protect yourself. The faster you can react, the less painful this process will be.
Assemble Your Team
There are many resources available to help you fight an identity thief, so make sure you utilize them all. That means contacting all of the people and organizations that are there to help you. Your first call should be to your bank to stop the thief from getting away with causing any more destruction to your finances. Once your bank knows the situation, they can work with you to suspend your credit cards, stop all payments on fraudulent checks, and freeze any accounts that you suspect might be compromised. Many banks will have fraud and theft protections in place that will shoulder the loss instead of leaving it to you. Make sure you get a clear picture of all of your options.
Next, call the police and file a full report. Once again, the sooner you report the crime the greater chance they have of catching the criminal. The officer on your case can also help you understand your rights and choices should they apprehend the thief. It’s a good idea to start thinking about whether you will want to sue for damages.
Finally, you’ll also want to be in conversation with the companies that report your credit score. You’ll need to comb through your credit report and contest every fraudulent charge to ensure that this unfortunate incident can fade into memory without impacting your financial health for the rest of your life.
This is crucial. Keep a meticulous list of everything that happens during this process, including the names of service representatives that you spoke to, what they told you, what actions you took, and how long until each action was completed. These records will be invaluable if you end up in court, and they will also help you to remember the millions of important details that you are going to be flooded with and figure out where and when you need to follow up. You should also write down a list of all the fraudulent charges so that you know exactly what you’ll need to contest or have refunded.
So long as you act quickly and follow these steps, your identity theft should soon be a distant memory, and you’ll be able to resume your life without any dire consequences.