The quicker you deal with identity theft, the better. The longer it goes unnoticed or unresolved, the more potential financial loss for the victim. It can be a devastating experience, but dealing with it properly can lessen the sting. It’s important to know how to protect yourself from identity theft, but it’s just as important to know what to do if you become a victim of it.
Contact a lawyer. It’s crucial to understand your rights and having someone on your side can help. Your going to have to face a lot of people (creditors, debt collectors, etc) that may or may not want to initially believe your story. This can be stressful, so if it is within your means to hire an attorney, this may take a lot of pressure off you when dealing with fraudulent charges and accounts.
Depending on the case, it may be handled by the FBI, Secret Service, or local law enforcement. The US Postal Service can even become involved if any matter pertains to them. They make arrests just like other law enforcement. Contact your local law enforcement agency first. From there, they will let you know who will be handling the case. If it is an identity theft ring, it will likely be the Secret Service. If you are a single victim, it will likely be local. At any rate, report it as soon as possible.
Report it to one of the credit reporting agencies. These are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. A fraud alert can be placed on your account alerting potential creditors of fraud. This can help new accounts from being opened. Also, a freeze can be placed on your credit report. This keeps the credit report itself from being opened. This is added security from new accounts being opened.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) needs to be notified. This can be done online or by calling them at 1-877-438-4338. They work with law enforcement on your case.
Finally, close any and all accounts that are at risk. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, loans, etc. Start with the ones that definitely do not belong to you and then work your way through any that could be at risk. Based on the information you think the perpetrator may have, make smart decisions on which ones to keep open. Some companies, (credit card companies, banks, etc) will let you put a password on your account. This means before any change can be made to the account the password must be given. A good rule to follow, is if your not sure if you think they can get to it or not, go ahead and close it. If you have hired an attorney, they may be able to help you with this.
Prevention is always key in protecting yourself from identity theft, but if those efforts do not work, following some guidelines can make the process easier to deal with.