Over the last few years, billions and billions of dollars are lost as a result of identity fraud. As a matter of fact, US News reports that in 2019 alone, $16.9 billion went up in smoke no thanks to online thieves. It’s worth noting, however, that not all internet fraud goes up to the level of identity theft, the same way that a security breach doesn’t necessarily constitute a stolen identity.
Identity theft happens when someone—a cybercriminal in particular—uses your private information for their own gain. This can range from (but are not limited to) opening new financial accounts, to making fraudulent medical claims, to even filing tax returns.
Having said this, we’ve talked to some of our peers from different industries and asked them tips on how to mitigate the damages caused by identity thieves. Here are their answers:
Freeze Your Credit with All Three Bureaus
Credit freezes prevent new credit lines from being opened in your name, meaning fraudsters can’t open new credit cards or take out loans using your information. Just remember to file for a separate freeze with each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Currently, there isn’t a unified system to manage freezes with each simultaneously.
Change Your Bank Account Login Information
Since you don’t know the amount of personal information that’s been compromised, it’s a best practice to change your login credentials to any online banking platform. This protects your funds, account information, and more. Furthermore, it simply brings peace of mind to one area of your life if or when your identity becomes compromised.
Get New Debit and Credit Cards Issued by Your Bank or Carriers
Freezing cards isn’t a viable long-term strategy. Replacing your debit and credit cards adds another layer of defense in the event credit cards or credit lines were opened in your name as part of the wider identity fraud.
There’s a lot of overlap between identity theft and things like credit fraud when someone charges fraudulent purchases to your debit or credit cards. Identity theft is more challenging to spot, usually floating to the surface when you do a credit check and find suspicious, unknown activity on your report. It’s a freaky moment for sure, but a manageable one.
Jim Pendergast, Senior Vice President, altLINE Sobanco
Notify the Authorities (or Anyone Involved) Immediately
When your identity is stolen the first thing you need to do is log off from all your accounts on your personal and work computers. If the passwords have not been compromised, then change them. I know it can be bothersome to go and change everything, especially if you are older, but pull out a notebook, create new passwords and record them all, storing them in a safe place.
You then need to contact any financial institution you have accounts with (banks, investors, brokers, etc.). Notify them that you are experiencing identity theft and that you will be taking no actions for the foreseeable future. They will then notify you if an attempt is made to retrieve or move money.
Notify the police. The earlier you make a statement the easier it will be to not pay costs incurred by your identity thief.
Trond Nyland, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Cordless Drill Guide
Report it to the Credit Reporting Agencies and the Federal Trade Commissions
In cases of identity theft, the first thing you should do is report it to the proper authorities. Contact the credit reporting agencies (CRA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and place fraud alerts. Then request your credit reports so you can identify unauthorized transactions. You may then go directly to those institutions affected by those transactions to work out a report and resolution.
Jeremy Harrison, Founder and Head of Content Strategy, Hustle Life
Put a Fraud Alert on Your Identity Information
If you feel like you’ve been a victim of identity theft, the most important thing to do is to put a fraud alert on your identity information. Fraud alerts are placed by respective bureaus of your country, you can simply contact them and ask them to do it.
Whether you had your driver’s license, identity card, or credit card stolen, having a fraud alert put on, helps to find the identity thief. The bureaus let you know when they detect any activity from your identity that was not by you. So, it assists the authorities in finding the culprit and gets your identity back.
Veronica Miller, Cybersecurity Expert, VPNOverview
Dealing with identity theft can be stressful and overwhelming, but thankfully, there are practical ways on how to combat this unwanted situation. Basically, the idea is to get everything sorted out as quickly and as efficiently as possible and to be vigilant to all the possible threats.
We sure hope this article sheds some sort of light on the subject. If you have more to add, be sure to leave a comment down below.