When Someone Steals Your Identity Do These 12 Tasks to Protect Yourself

I got a call from Wells Fargo last Wednesday notifying me that someone had stolen my SSN, also knew my address and was attempting to take out a credit card/loan. Awesome. This led me to investigate what any consumer should do in the event of identity theft. So, here are the 7 most important things to do when someone steals your identity.

The 7 Most Important Things to Do When Someone Steals Your Identity

1.) Cancel all of your cards

All of the credit cards may be affected, better safe than sorry. While you're on the phone with the credit card companies, set up a two-step verification, that way in case anyone dials in attempting to be you, they'll have to give a password in order to access your account.

2.) Change all the passwords to your online accounts

This should be a no-brainer. In the digital age, it's increasingly likely that your information was accessed through one of your online accounts. I list Last Pass for this as it makes it really easy to track and change passwords.

3.) Place an alert on your credit report immediately.

You can report it to Experian via this link and they will also notify Transunion and Equifax. You'll place an alert and leave your phone number so anytime someone tries to take out a loan or do something requiring a credit check, you'll get a phone call.

If you do it yourself, they expire in 90 days, so make a calendar reminder in 90 days time to go back and set the fraud alert again.

4.) Check Your Credit Report Too

While you're there, go ahead and either order a copy of your credit report (you get one for free, from all three bureaus, once each year.) Or you can download online and print, although you won't be able to access again for free until the next year. Check for any odd or suspicious activity, and check ALL OF THEM. Sometimes things show up on one report that do not on another (which happened in my case.) Once/if you find something move to number 5.

You can also easily access your credit report for free online through Credit Sesame.

5.)  Write a letter (ASAP) to get fraudulent activity off your report 

For this one, you'll have to write to each credit bureau separately since each one reports differently/different activity. You'll need to mail a letter stating the charge is fraudulent, and mail them a copy of your ID and a utility bill or bank/insurance statement. Hopefully, this will do the trick, but it could take a few weeks.

6.) Put yourself on the opt-out list

It is happening less and less, but people do still receive pre-approved credit offers in the mail. Put yourself on the opt-out list by going here, filling out the form and then mailing it. I suspect my identity may have been stolen because someone has been tampering with my mail.

7.) Get a shredder

In case you keep getting these offers, shred em, and shred any old documents with your social. Identity theft is a largely digital crime, but you NEVER know. It could literally happen anywhere.

 

Update 7/12/17: A lot has changed since 2014, and while my the above tips are still relevant, I’d like to include a handful of newer tips for preventing theft of your financial info in today’s increasingly digital world.

 

5 (More) Ways to Keep Your Identity Secure when Someone Steals Your Identity

 

  1. Don’t join sketchy Wi-Fi networks. Ever.
  2. Don’t do ANY financial business on a public Wi-Fi network, for example, if you’re at Starbucks. Wait until you’re at home on your own network for these types of transactions.
  3. Not only change your passwords, but set strong passwords moving forward. Most online accounts now require this, but just in case. (I know it’s annoying, but it’s effective.)
  4. Consider using credit cards as those typically have more fraud protections in place than debit cards.
  5. Keep a hard copy record of all credit card numbers.
  6. Invest in on-going credit monitoring. I'm normally pretty good about keeping a check on my score every month. It's not fool-proof, but in case someone does get an account/card open in your name, you'll be able to spot it. You can also pay per month for Transunion or some other company to track your credit for you.

 

 

I invested in credit monitoring for the entire year after my identity was stolen. It was very low cost, and it provided an incredible peace of mind in those early months after it happened. It's always best to ensure a) your credentials aren't stolen again and b) that the original perp isn't letting some time pass before trying to use your information again.

Waiting to sign up for identity protection services after your data has been compromised is a lot like waiting until after you’ve been burgled to install a security system. A security system is nice to have, but it doesn’t really fix the fact that you’ve been robbed of your stuff and now feel unsafe.

Prevention (and having the right tools in place) is always the best course of action.

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Identity theft is stressful, confusing, and scary. So how can you get through it without losing everything? Here are the 7 things to do when someone steals your identity.

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  • Bintex Shah
    April 30, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.

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  • Kassandra
    July 2, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Wow really sorry you’re having to go through this! I had my identity stolen several years ago and it took a couple years to clean up the damage they did as they actually opened a bank account in my name and committed fraud. Good suggestions that you listed.

  • Michelle
    July 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I have been guilty of just throwing away card offers in the mail without shredding them. i think that will be my next guilt-free purchase.

  • Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans
    July 1, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I’m so sorry this happened to you! This is definitely one of my nightmares. I’m saving this post just in case it happens to me or anyone I know.

  • Kendal @HassleFreeSaver
    June 30, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    I’m just gonna say it — the Universe needs to back up off L. Bee. This is ridic! You’re handling it with poise and turning it into a teachable moment for the rest of us. Do me a favor and have a margarita tonight? Virtual toast from across the country — here’s to you, lady!

    • Lauren Bowling
      July 1, 2014 at 8:36 am

      I have pretty much been pounding wine at night for the last three weeks. It does help. Thanks Kendal <3

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter
    June 30, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Oh my gosh, talk about adding insult to injury! I believe it is the PoPs who have had repeated issues with identify theft? They (if it’s them!) have some great resources for helping with this stuff.
    Try to think of it as your life is just so awesome that someone wants to be you 😉

    • Lauren Bowling
      July 1, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Ha. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it does make me smile!

  • Broke Millennial
    June 30, 2014 at 10:13 am

    I’m sorry you have to deal with this Lauren. This is a great resource though. I had a minor freak out that my identity had been stolen last month because two cards had issues with fraud within a week of each other and that seemed just too odd of a coincidence.

    • Lauren Bowling
      July 1, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Yes. Thankfully most credit/banking companies invest a lot of money in fraud prevention, so it’s (somewhat) easier to catch these days than in the past. Wells Fargo has the phone number the person used to access my account flagged for potential fraud on other accounts, so I’m very grateful for the early notice.

  • Addison @ Cashville Skyline
    June 30, 2014 at 9:07 am

    So sorry that you’re had to deal with that Lauren! Michelle’s comment about someone buying a house in her name at the age of 13 is downright scary. It sounds like you’re taking the right steps to get this resolved as quickly as possible. Sending positive thoughts your way!

  • Michelle
    June 29, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I check all of my accounts and credit report all the time. I had someone buy a HOUSE in my name when I was just 13 years old, so because of that I’ve been forced to watch out for the rest of my life now.

    • Lauren Bowling
      July 1, 2014 at 8:33 am

      Well…you win. Geez! How scary! I’d be interested in hearing the story of how you found out that happened.

  • Michele
    June 29, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I’ve always heard about bad things coming in three’s not seven’s…but, that may explain some things. I am so happy that you were contacted so quickly. I had someone try to purchase hundreds of dollars of items on my debit card during a trip to Breckenridge. But, the purchases were so obviously not mine that they triggered a fraud alert. Now, I obsessively use cash when I go out for dinners, etc. I’ve gotten a little paranoid about it.

    • Lauren Bowling
      July 1, 2014 at 8:33 am

      It’s easy to be proactive, but not so easy to fix. 🙁

  • Kirsten @ Indebtedmom
    June 29, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Oh my heart, how scary! This is totally my worst nightmare and yet I’m not very proactive about checking my credit report. I kinda hide my head in the sand because I have my own problems (which is a totally backwards excuse). You’ve inspired me to check my reports this week!

    • Lauren Bowling
      July 1, 2014 at 8:32 am

      Ah! Yay! Glad you’re taking action.

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