So I woke up this morning to find that the email account I’ve had since high school was broken into by a hacker. Not only did the hacker have access to my entire contact list, but he or she took the opportunity to send an email to every single person on the list informing them that there was still hope for their erectile dysfunction. I then spent the next few hours fielding confused phone calls from distant relatives, friends, and former employers asking why and (in some cases how) I thought they couldn’t get their swerve on.
I’ve never been a victim of identity theft, though I’m glad
to see I’m not alone. Millions of people get their identity stolen
every year, even the imbecilic
famous. If you were too lazy to
click on that last link, apparently former Alaskan governor and
Palin has taken the stand to testify against a
Though I certainly do not agree with her politics or like
her in any way, shape, or form, if the charges are true, I do feel bad for
Palin simply because I’ve just experienced the kind of havoc that can be wrought
in your life by someone impersonating your identity. Palin claims the intrusion caused her to stop
emailing her family and resulted in harassing phone calls and text messages to
But this whole event got me thinking that really I’m one of
the lucky ones. Sure the hacker caused
me a few hours of frustration, but nothing that a quick password change and a
few clarifying emails and phones could solve.
It would’ve been a much different story had the mysterious hacker gotten
a hold of my credit card or worst yet the password to my bank account. And thus the inevitable question arises: What
should you do if your identity is stolen?
Well good madam or sir, if you’re looking for the answer to that
question, then you’ve come to the right place.
Here are my top recommendations:
1. Get a list of the recent transactions from your compromised accounts
You need to get organized and figure out the amount of damage done to your good name. Go online and get an itemized list of all your recent transactions going back at least 6 months, then comb through the list and look for any suspicious or fraudulent transactions. As you are doing that you should also consider starting my next tip concurrently.
2. Contact your bank and/or credit card company’s security or fraud department immediately
This seems like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how
many people freak out and neglect to do this simple step. Tell the representative that you’re account
has been compromised and give them a report of all the fraudulent
transactions. Be sure to also inquire
about the reimbursement process so that you can get your money back. Typically, banks and credit card companies
have premade forms that you’ll have to fill out to begin the reimbursement
3. Cancel any new accounts created, pending transactions, and compromise bank and/or credit cards
Another no-brainer, but also one that people can forget when they’re frantic. Find out if any new bank, credit, or other accounts have been opened in your name, along with any pending transaction, and cancel them. Identity thieves often open new accounts far removed from your existing accounts to make it difficult for victims to find out their identity has been stolen. Finding these accounts may seem difficult, but don’t fret, you can easily locate any account opened under your social security number by requesting a free credit report. This will list all the pertinent financial information going on without your knowledge. You can also place fraud alerts on your account so that if any new seedy transactions occur under your name, you’ll know about it and can stop them.
4. Change your online passwords to your compromised accounts
When you get your identity stolen you’ll want to plug up
security holes as soon as possible.
Changing passwords is an important step to keeping thieves from
continuing to impersonate you online.
5. File a police report and a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
You’re situation may seem like an impossible one to solve, but you have to file a report with the police so that they can open an investigation and try to catch your identity thief. The police will walk you through what information they need from you and, in some jurisdictions, may even have a special task force design to handle identity theft case. You should also file a complaint with the FTC using their online complaint form. This will help law enforcement in tracking down your thief. As an added bonus, you can submit your FTC complaint form to the police who will incorporate it into your police report, when combined they can constitute an Identity Theft Report. This report can be used to permanently block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report, ensure that debts do not reappear on your credit report, prevent a company from continuing to collect debts that result from identity theft, and even place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.
Remember to also keep records of all your conversations and exchanges regarding your identity theft case. This will make it not only easier for the police investigating your case, but will also make it easier for you to recover any money stolen from your accounts. Proper documentation is important and will be your best friend throughout this awful ordeal. And if the whole process is getting you down. Remember, you’re not alone.
By: Andrew Dat