In 2019, consumers lost $3.5 billion dollars from fraud, and the recent pandemic has seen a significant uptick in identity thefts. The fastest-growing complaints the Consumer Federation of America receives is the fear of being targeted, but few know what to do once they are. If you have been targeted by ID theft or you had a recent close call, here's how you report it.
Follow These 4 Steps When After Being Victimized by Fraud
Being victimized by fraud is terrifying, but you can prevent it from happening again by using anti-ID theft software, like Identity Guard, in tandem with a VPN, like Expressvpn.
1. Discover Where the Source of the Threat
Some identity thefts are a one-off, bad luck occurrence. For example, you dropped your credit card in the parking lot, or a dumpster diver stole your electric bill. However, the vast majority of identity thefts come from the information that you store on a website or online. Banking websites, popular retail stores, and dating sites are common victims of hackers.
Most banks will call you to inform you that they've blocked your account due to malicious activity, but nowadays, hackers are smart enough to be sneaky. Regardless, if you notice charges on your credit cards you didn't make, or you receive a phone call from a collection agency for debt in your name on funds you don't owe, try not to panic.
While that's easier said than done, what you do next could prevent further damage. Start to think about what types of transactions you've made in the last 30-days. Did you buy from an e-commerce website that was a recent victim of an attack? Did you buy from a store you don't usually purchase from? On the other hand, frauds can happen from elsewhere.
Unprotected chats on websites may hold your private information.
Loyalty accounts may be targets to steal valuable info,
Tax refunds may be stolen from savvy hackers.
Any email, message, or download you send/make could have a virus.
Avoid websites you think could have a virus or a hack that could make you vulnerable again.
2. Freeze Your Accounts
No matter where the threat is coming from, you're currently under attack and need to shut it down immediately. Call your bank to tell them to freeze your accounts and change your login info and passwords. Next, contact one of the big three credit bureaus to ask for a credit report and a "fraud alert on your accounts for 90 days.
Once you contact one, you should contact the others. After you've made all of your important phone calls, report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission and file a police report.
3. Stay Diligent
After you've covered your bases, you still need to stay diligent. While government agencies and private companies work quickly to help you recover from identity theft, you may still experience long-term consequences from the incident. The fraudster still has access to your information that could be used years down the line or to file a fraudulent tax return for the following year.
Cybercriminals may sell your information on the black market, or they could leverage your social security number to obtain a new credit card. It may be in your best interest to apply for a new SSN, change banks, limit the number of credit services you use, and only use prepaid cards.
4. Protect Yourself
Defrauded companies typically sell your debt to collectors, who will call you looking for the money you "owe them." Act quickly when you're frauded by reporting the theft as fast as possible and writing a letter to debt collectors. In the future, it's a good idea to take special precautions that lower the likelihood of fraud, like using effective passwords and avoiding shady websites. Staying diligent will protect you from criminal activity in the following years.