The holiday season is prime time for identity thieves because with it comes an incredible increase in spending. This means identity thieves are looking for tech-unsavvy shoppers who do their holiday shopping over unsecured networks or websites. Even better for them, the increase in spending can make their fraudulent charges look a bit more legitimate to everyone involved. Who knows, that brand new TV could have been a gift? Knowing how to handle the joyful craze can minimize the risks you accidentally take.
It is important to monitor your statements on a regular basis, but especially over the holiday season. If charges begin appearing that weren’t made by you, then acting immediately can help save you from an even bigger headache.
Contact a Major Credit Reporting Bureaus
Placing a fraud alert tells the credit reporting bureaus to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. This makes it harder for thieves to open any accounts in your name. If thieves attempt to do so, the companies will contact you about whether you really intended to do so. The alert stays active for 90 days and entitles you to one free credit report. After contacting just one agency, they will alert the rest of them to the fraud alert on your account.
After filing a fraud alert, you’re able to contact each of the three reporting agencies and request a free credit score. Explain to them that you placed a fraud alert and request that they only show the last 4 digits of your social security number on the report.
Place a Credit Freeze on Your Account
Another step is to place a credit freeze on your account. With a credit freeze in place, potential creditors can’t access your credit report. The freeze doesn’t affect your score, so you can still do anything that requires your credit score, such as applying for a job or renting an apartment. In some states there may be a fee involved with placing a credit freeze, although that fee might be lifted with a police report, which is the next step to take when your identity is stolen.
Create an Identity Theft Report
An identity theft report gives you the ability to reverse the damages caused by having your identity stolen. With it you can have fraudulent activity removed from your credit report, stop companies from attempting to collect debts caused by the identity thieves, and place an extended alert on your account.
The first step is to file a complaint with the FTC. The FTC has an online form for this purpose, but identity theft victims can also call 1-877-438-4338 or 1-866-653-4261 to complete a complaint affidavit. Once done, they’ll email a link to this document, which you can print and show to the police.
Words of Wisdom from Identity Theft Victims
Unfortunately, no matter how soon fraudulent activity is caught, it’s nearly always inconvenient at best. The charges must completely go through (stop pending) before a bank or credit card company can act on them. Even then, how soon the money will be returned varies. Putting a stop to full-blown identity theft, where the thieves open new cards or use your personal information in other nefarious ways, is a long-term process.
In addition, local police often know that filing a police report is simply a formality because the culprits are so rarely located in the same country, let alone their jurisdiction, so they might not mirror your concern over what’s happened. Try to have patience while taking these necessary steps.
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