Having your account hacked can become a crime against your sanity. But it’s possible to expunge the perpetrator from your accounts and get them out of your head if you follow this comprehensive checklist:
- Notify affected creditors or bank.
If your bank account or credit line was hacked, shutting it down is your first order of business. Contacting the credit card company or bank ASAP can save you money. Most credit cards have zero-liability policies, but the Fair Credit Billing Act specifies that your maximum liability for unauthorized charges is $50.
ATM or debit cards and electronic transfers from your bank account fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. It protects consumers from any liability if they report a lost or stolen card before any fraudulent transactions take place. But if purchases or withdrawals are made, consumers have two business days to report the unauthorized charges/transfers to get the $50 liability limit.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit report.
Contact any one of the three credit reporting agencies and a fraud alert will be put on all three of your credit files for 90 days. After you’ve filed a police report or filled out the ID theft complaint form from the Federal Trade Commission, you can put an extended fraud alert on your credit, which stays in effect for seven years.
- Check your credit reports.
After installing the fraud alert, you’ll automatically receive a free credit report from each of the three agencies and be opted out of preapproved credit card and insurance offers. After you receive your reports, make note of the unique number assigned to your account. This will be valuable in all your communications with the agencies.
Look for signs of fraud — new accounts you didn’t open, hard inquiries you don’t recognize, payment history you can’t account for, an employer you never worked for, and personal information unfamiliar to you. Pull each of your credit reports at least once over the course of a year to check for fraudulent activity and use an identity theft report to get fraudulent information removed from your reports.
- Consider putting a credit freeze on your reports.
A credit freeze is a good thing to do if you know you’re a victim, as it will completely lock down all your credit information. It prevents the credit reporting agencies from releasing your report to new creditors. You’ll pay as much as $10 to place a freeze at each bureau, depending on the state you live in; it’s usually free if you can prove you’re an ID theft victim.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission.
Call the FTC at (877) 438-4338. While federal investigators tend to pursue larger, more sophisticated fraud cases, they monitor identity theft crimes of all levels in the hopes of discovering patterns and breaking up larger rings.
More importantly, fill out the ID theft complaint and affidavit form at the FTC’s website and print it out for your records. Together with a police report, it serves as your ID theft report, which will help you dispute fraudulent accounts.
According to the FTC website, an ID theft report is more comprehensive than a police report alone. (Local police may add your complaint form into its report.)
If you don’t file a police report, you can use the complaint as an ID theft affidavit to request companies to remove you from being responsible for unauthorized new accounts. However, the affidavit doesn’t provide as many legal protections as an ID theft report.
- Go to the police.
Securing a police report is of utmost importance. Report the crime to local law enforcement, as well as the police departments where the crime occurred.
Not all states have to take a police report from identity theft victims, but the FTC provides a cover letter to give to local law enforcement which stresses the importance of police reports for consumer victims.
Make sure the police report lists all fraud accounts. Give as much documented information as possible and give them a copy of the FTC ID theft complaint form. Either get a copy of the report, or request that they sign your FTC complaint form and provide the police report number in the “Law Enforcement Report” section. Keep the phone number of your police investigator handy for future reference.
- Send creditors a copy of your ID theft report.
Notify creditors in writing that you have been a victim of fraud and include your ID theft report. Ask each affected creditor to provide you and your law enforcement agency with copies of the documents showing fraudulent transactions. You may have to fight to get this documentation, but don’t give up. It will help track down the perpetrator.
- Contact credit reporting agencies.
By sending a copy of your ID theft report to the consumer reporting agencies, fraudulent accounts should be blocked from appearing on your credit report. Nonetheless, keep a close eye on credit reports to make sure that erroneous information doesn’t get added again. Often the bad information that they thought they had cleared up mysteriously reappears.
- Change all account passwords.
If an account doesn’t have a password, put one on it. Avoid using obvious passwords, such as the last four digits of your Social Security number or your birth date.
- Contact the Social Security Fraud Hotline.
Notify the Office of the Inspector General if your Social Security number has been fraudulently used. Ask for a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement and check for accuracy.
- Get a new driver’s license.
You may need to change your driver’s license number if someone is using yours as an ID. Go to the DMV to get a new number.
- Contact your telephone and utility companies.
They need to be alerted in case an identity thief tries to open a new account in your name, using a utility bill as proof of residence.
It’s a long process, to be sure, but worth it to set the record straight. For future peace of mind – protect your accounts with the security of a prepaid digital card from MOVO.