Financial Fundamentals Blog

What To Do if Someone Tries To Steal Your Identity


Identity theft is the use of another person’s name, address, or Social Security Number (SSN) for personal gain. According to Javelin Strategy and Research, approximately 15 million people had their identity stolen in 2021. However, only 1.4 million cases were reported to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).


No one wants to have their identity stolen, but it can be challenging to avoid considering the amount of personal information stored by companies online. Therefore, it’s critical to be prepared for identity theft by knowing what to do if someone steals your identity and how to recognize the signs it might be happening.


How to Prevent Identity Theft

There are various types of identity theft, including financial, synthetic, and child identity. One action you can take to guard yourself against these common types of identity theft is to regularly check bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity and monitor credit reports for any unusual credit or loan accounts that you didn’t open.


Another important defense is to use strong passwords and regularly change them, especially if you get a notification about a security breach (but ideally before). It’s OK if you have trouble remembering passwords; many of us do. However, it’s critical to avoid the common missteps of using the same password for multiple accounts and keeping a list of your usernames and passwords in a document on your phone or computer. A reputable password manager app can help you easily manage and store your passwords as well as help you generate a strong password. 


Steps to Take if Someone Tries to Steal Your Identity

How do you know your identity was stolen? Common indicators of identity theft include accounts you didn’t open listed in your credit report, unfamiliar transactions in your checking or credit card statements, and notice from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about receiving more than one tax return for you. If someone tries to steal your identity, it’s critical to take action as soon as possible. Start by taking the steps below. 


Report the Identity Theft

Reporting identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission will make it easier for you to fix problems that arise with identity theft. You can use the report from the FTC to prove to businesses and creditors that you were a victim of identity theft, block fraudulent information from the identity theft from appearing on your credit reports, place fraud alerts on your credit report, and even prevent creditors from collecting debts related to the identity theft.


It is important to note that the FTC can’t pursue criminal charges. However, law enforcement can use the report to track down the identity thief. It’s also critical to notify your financial institution, credit card companies, and even your local police department. Your local police department won’t be able to do anything if your identity was stolen online or by individuals overseas, but they may be able to track down a perpetrator if they’re local.


Place a Fraud Alert

Placing a fraud alert on your credit reports notifies institutions that pull your credit report that your identity may have been compromised, so they will take extra care to make sure that the person applying for the loan or credit card is actually you. Even if your identity theft issue has been fixed, it is critical that you not skip this step because your personal information will continue to cycle among scammers, and someone else may try to open a fraudulent account. 


To place a fraud alert, you just need to contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and ask them to place a fraud alert on your account. You don’t need to request a fraud alert from all three — the one you choose to notify will then notify the other two bureaus. This request is free, and the alert lasts for a year.


Review Your Accounts

When your identity is stolen, you need to continually monitor your credit reports and your bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity. As mentioned above, your personal information could continue circulating among scammers for some time, so it’s critical to keep a close eye on your accounts to avoid additional identity theft instances.


Change Your Passwords

It’s never a bad time to review all of your passwords and change them to a stronger password. A password managing app can help you generate strong, hard-to-guess passwords and store them so you don’t have to worry about remembering them yourself. Enabling two-factor authentication when available is another strong way to prevent identity theft. In addition to a password, two-factor authentication requires a code delivered via email or text to access the account.


Comprehensive Identity Theft Support Your Account Needs

Identity theft can, understandably, be overwhelming, from noticing the theft to determining what to do about it. 7 17 Credit Union offers members the Identity Theft and Security Center Program featuring Restoration Rescue through our Benefits Plus® checking account. If your identity is stolen, you’ll receive comprehensive support through this program to resolve your situation. Learn more and take advantage of these benefits by becoming a member today.