This is the second in a three-part series on the emotional toll of identity theft. To read the first article, please click here.
If you are one of 13.1 million Americans who was a victim of identity theft in 2013, you may be dealing with a number of ramifications. Here are 12 ways you can deal with both the financial and emotional fallout that comes as a result of identity theft.
1. Check your credit report with all three credit reporting agencies. Scan it for some of the following warning signs of identity theft:
- An account that is not yours or activity on accounts you haven’t used recently.
- Check your personal information for unknown addresses, incorrect social security number, incorrect date of birth and unknown employers.
- Credit inquiries you did not authorize. Unauthorized entries, other than pre-screened credit offers, could be a sign that a thief has requested credit in your name.
- Review any public records for liens, judgments, or collections you are unfamiliar with.
2. Close fraudulent accounts.
3. Keep checking your credit report regularly. It can take months after identity theft for a new account to show up on your credit report. You are entitled to a free credit report each year from each of the three national credit reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-828, the only authorized source under federal law.
4. Place a fraud alert by contacting any one of the three credit reporting agencies. Equifax (as well as the other agencies) will automatically forward this request to the other two agencies. Contact each one separately to place a security freeze on your credit files.
5. File a police report with whichever police or sheriff’s department has jurisdiction over your case.
6. Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) using its identity theft hotline at 877-438-4338.
7. Make a plan. “I always tell people: pause but don’t panic,” says Nancy Molitor, PhD, a clinical psychologist based in Wilmette, Illinois. “Try to figure out exactly why you’re stressed. The worst thing you can do is to get overwhelmed and think worst-case scenario. Be grounded, stay in the present, and make a plan for yourself.”
8. Build a support system. “I really encourage people to practice extreme care, making sure they’re taking care of themselves in whatever way works for them, including surrounding themselves with supportive people,” says Diane Turner, a licensed clinical social worker and certified life coach based in Chicago, and Tucson, Arizona.
For some people, family members can make a great support system as you work toward restoring your finances. For others, family members are not the best people to turn to, Turner says. If this is the case for you, connect with a religious leader or friends to make sure you’re getting the support you need.
9. Keep a detailed journal. Feeling in control of your life can go a long way toward making you feel better. Keep records of every call you make, every letter you receive, and every day you take action toward resolving your claim.
10. Contact a victims’ assistance group. There are victims’ assistance groups out there just for people who have been affected by identity theft. They can lead you through the process of fixing the issue and offer references for further support.
- Identity Theft Assistance Center: If your financial services company belongs to ITAC, it can refer you to this free service for help.
- Identity Theft Resource Center: ITRC provides toll-free, no-cost victims’ assistance and consumer education.
- Identity Theft Victims Assistance Network: Check this website for victims’ resources listed by state.
11. Consider getting professional help. “If you are someone who has experienced identity theft, do not shame yourself or in any way tell yourself you should be past it if you’re still experiencing emotional symptoms,” says Turner. “It’s important for you to pay attention to your mental state and seek out counsel if you need it. Talk to your clergy, see a life coach or a therapist; see a professional who can help you on that healing path.”
12. Come to terms with the crime. Like any form of trauma, there isn’t a set time for a victim to be able to move forward after falling prey to an identity thief. The way to move forward, Turner says, is to accept the challenge that the crime has presented, but recognize the power and ability to move forward.
“It really is such a tremendous invasion of privacy,” says Turner. “What people really have to do is learn to reestablish themselves separately from their identity.”
To read the next article in the series, click here.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.