DEALING WITH IDENTITY THEFT
If it looks like someone may have stolen your identity, you need to take action as quickly as possible for two reasons: first, you want to stop the criminal from stealing from you, and second, you need to protect your credit rating.
Indiana Members Credit Union knows how important it is to take action in this situation, and we know that it can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why we created this basic guide to spell out the steps you need to take right away, and what you can do to protect your identity and your credit in the future.
SIX THINGS TO DO RIGHT AWAY
- CONTACT YOUR LOCAL POLICE OR SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Identity theft is more than a nuisance. It’s a crime. While the police may not be able to catch the thief who has stolen your information or identity, you may need to have a police report to be able to restore your credit.
- NOTIFY IMCU AND ANY OTHER FINANCIAL INSTITUTION WHERE YOU HAVE ACCOUNTS
Please contact the manager at your nearest IMCU location and let them know what happened. If you have accounts at other banks or credit unions, please be sure to notify them as well. We can keep an eye on your accounts to detect any attempts to access them. Depending upon the situation, it may be a good idea to transfer your money to new accounts and close the old ones.
- CONTACT THE CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES
There are three national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. We have websites and telephone numbers for them later in this guide. Ask each of them to put what’s known as a Fraud Alert on your credit report. That way, they’ll make sure that credit issuers check with you before opening any new accounts.
- NOTIFY CREDIT CARD COMPANIES
Contact all the card issuers and stores for which you have credit cards, and let them know that your identity has been stolen. They’ll cancel your current cards and issue new ones.
- FILE AN FTC COMPLAINT
The Federal Trade Commission keeps track of identity theft cases and offers helpful information for victims. You can file a complaint by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT or visiting www. consumer.gov/idtheft.
- KEEP GOOD RECORDS
It’s important to document all the steps you’ve taken to notify creditors and credit reporting agencies, because they may protect you in the event that someone claims you failed to take the proper steps, or if someone continues to use your identity illegally. Maintain records of the dates you contacted everyone and keep copies of any paperwork you submit or receive.
ARE YOU WONDERING IF YOU’RE REALLY A VICTIM?
If you suspect that someone may have stolen your identity, but aren’t sure, the best way to check is to review your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Under federal law, consumers can request one copy of their personal report from each of the credit reporting agencies every year by visiting http://www.annualcrediterport.com or calling 877-322-8228. (The credit reporting agencies may try to sell you additional services such as credit monitoring, but you aren’t required to purchase anything to get your free reports.)
Your credit reports will list all the accounts that have been opened using your name and information. If you see accounts that you haven’t opened, you may be a victim of identity theft. If that’s the case, or if there is incorrect information about you, follow the information in the report to request an investigation or a correction.
SMART WAYS TO RECOVER FROM IDENTITY THEFT
Having your identity stolen can create a major disruption in your life and damage the financial reputation you’ve worked hard to earn. Once you’ve completed the steps involved in notifying everyone and making corrections, it’s time to start recovering.
Recovering from identity theft isn’t easy, and it may take more time than you expect. However, it’s important to follow all the steps to ensure that the damage is repaired and your credit and information is safe in the future.
STRESS OF IDENTITY THEFT
Because identity theft is a violation of your privacy, you may suffer just as much as if someone had broken into your home or apartment and stolen things. It’s not unusual for victims of identity theft to experience significant stress, anger, and even depression.
You may become so frustrated that you feel you just want to give up. Or you may be embarrassed to find yourself in this situation, especially if an uncaring creditor is making the process difficult. Please remember that you did nothing wrong. You were the victim of a crime, and the law is on your side. By following all the correct steps, you will eventually be able to restore your good name and your credit rating.
If you find that your stress or depression is interfering with your daily life or negatively affecting your relationships with family and friends, you may want to consider talking with a counselor. Your doctor, pastor, or local mental health organization should be able to recommend someone who can help you.
YOU MAY NEED LEGAL ASSISTANCE
In most cases, creditors and credit reporting agencies are very cooperative when it comes to helping victims of identity theft. However, there are always exceptions. Some creditors can make the process difficult. Sometimes, a creditor may turn your account over to a collection agency that may threaten or harass you (which is illegal).
If you’re getting nowhere on your own, you may want to enlist the assistance of an attorney. Your local Bar Association can give you the names of attorneys in your area who work with credit problems. Many attorneys offer a free consultation at which they will discuss the options that are available to you.
GOOD RECORDS ARE IMPORTANT
As mentioned before, continue to document all the steps you’re taking to restore your credit. Include names, dates, and other information. Keep copies of all paperwork you receive and anything you send to others. You may not need any of those records, but if a problem arises, having them will make it much easier to resolve it.
In addition, if you itemize deductions on your income tax return, you may be able to deduct some or all of what you’ve lost to the identity thief. We cannot provide tax advice, so be sure to consult with your tax preparer.
HOW YOU CAN PREVENT FUTURE IDENTITY THEFT
Anyone who has ever been through identity theft wants to be sure that it will never happen again. While thieves are sneaky and always seeking new ways to steal information, the best way to protect yourself is to be extremely careful with your personal and financial information. For example, save credit card receipts and compare them with your monthly statements to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges. Shred old bank and credit statements before throwing them away. Finally, be sure to check your credit reports annually by visiting http://www.annualcrediterport.com or calling 877-322-8228.
ONLINE MAY BE SAFER
It’s true that identity theft may take place on the internet, but generally, it’s safer to handle your financial activities online. IMCU’s Online Banking services are not only a convenient way to pay your bills and handle many types of transactions — they’re also protected by state-of-the-art security systems that safeguard your information. If you haven’t signed up for Online Banking yet, stop by any of our locations, and we’ll be happy to help.
GETTING HOOKED BY PHISHING
“Phishing” is a term that describes using emails, texts, or social media messages to fool people into sharing financial information such as account numbers and passwords. Identity thieves create messages that look like they’re coming from your credit union, bank, credit card companies, the Internal Revenue Service, or services such as PayPal. Those messages may claim that there’s a problem with your account, and state that you need to provide your account number and password to fix the situation. Don’t do it! Once the thieves have that information, they can use it to steal your identity.
Indiana Members Credit Union and most organizations will never send emails asking for account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, your personal identification number (PIN), and similar information. After all, we already have it stored securely. If you receive a message and aren’t sure if it’s legitimate, call or visit your nearest IMCU location and ask the manager about it.
ARE YOU TIRED OF CREDIT CARD OFFERS?
Credit card issuers frequently use mail to encourage people to open new accounts. Sometimes, identity thieves will steal mail and use the applications in those letters to open fake accounts. The best way to keep that from happening is opt out of “preapproved” credit card mailings by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). That will tell the credit reporting agencies not to share your information with companies that send credit card mailings (although banks or other creditors with whom you already have accounts will still be able to do so).
If you need more information about responding to and preventing identity theft, there are plenty of resources that can help. We’ve included several here.
CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES
(888) EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)
FIND MY PHONE
Google’s free app for helping you track a lost or stolen phone.
For Android, it provides real-time alerts of unusual activity.
A password generator and manager.
Tracks your online accounts and notifies you of suspicious use.
Protects the data in your smartphone in case of theft.
FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
Help with internet-based identity theft.
Federal Trade Commission
Information about federal resources for identity theft.
Federal Trade Commission blog
Great information about identity theft.
Identity Theft Resource Center
A nonprofit resource with practical advice.
Indiana Attorney General
Resources for victims of identity theft.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Steps to take if you’re a victim.
From Victim to Victor: A Step-by-Step Guide for Ending the Nightmare of Identity Theft, by Mari Frank, Esq.
Hack-Proof Your Life Now! The New Cybersecurity Rules by Sean Bailey and Devin Knopp
Identity Theft Alert: 10 Rules You Must Follow to Protect Yourself from America’s #1 Crime by Steve Weisman
Identity Theft For Dummies, by Michael Arata
The Rational Guide to Preventing Identity Theft, by Jerri Ledford