In this, our final post in the series, we’ll tell you how to cope if it’s too late and you find yourself a victim.
You’re shocked, and even angry when it happens. And slowly it dawns on you that you’re going to have to move quickly to get this straightened out… But what do you do first? Call the cops? Call the social security agency? Call your bank?
Each year at tax time, there are more and more clients whose tax returns cannot be e-filed because someone’s stolen their identities – and the taxpayer had no idea. (Fact: Miami is the #1 city for identity theft. Tampa is #6. Florida cities hold 13 of the top 20 spots in the US where ID theft is most common!) Scary.
So we did some digging to give you the best course of action once you realize someone’s stolen your identity.
Here are 4 simple (but critical!) steps you should take immediately to prevent the thieves from doing serious harm to your financial life:
- File a Fraud Alert with all 3 Credit Reporting Agencies. It might seem odd, but according to the Federal Trade Commission, this is the most critical first step. Immediately notify Experian, TransUnion, & Equifax that you believe your identity is compromised. They will place a 90-day alert on your credit file, which means your financial accounts will be closely monitored for unusual activity. Here are step-by-step instructions how to place a fraud alert.
- Order Copies of Your Credit Report. While you’re on the phone with the 3 agencies, request a copy of your credit report. By law, you may receive 1 free report every 12 months. When you receive it, review it for accuracy and file complaints/corrections if anything is out of order. Here’s more info on how to do that.
- Create & File an Identity Theft Report with the FTC. This step is critical to protecting yourself from fraud and liability related to identity theft. You’ll need to submit to an identity theft affidavit AND a police report to the FTC. Here’s an easy-to-follow how-to guide on that.
- File an Identity Theft Form with the IRS. It’s probably the last thing on your mind if it’s not tax season, but many times social security numbers are used to fraudulently apply for jobs and then collect taxes (and refunds). Make sure you inform the IRS that your identity has been compromised by filing Form 14039. They will likely issue you a special identity protection PIN, which will allow you to file and communicate with them in the future without issue. Read more info from the IRS on taxes and identity theft.
Now, listen. We know those aren’t all as easy as they sound. You’re likely to spend 20-40 hours taking these steps if you’ve been an identity theft victim. But trust us: it’s WAY worth it compared to having your assets taken away from you completely. So go ahead, suck it up, and get it done. You’ll sleep better at night once you do.
An Infographic on Identity Theft: Pay Attention Florida!!