What To Do Right Now
If you think that you have been a victim of identity theft, there are steps you should take immediately to protect yourself and your finances. It is imperative that you do take action immediately; this will give you the best outcome and the least amount of damage to your finances.
- Contact ALL of your credit card account companies and cancel your cards. Alert them to the fact that your identity may have been stolen. They will freeze the charges on your old accounts and issue you new cards.
- Contact a New Accounts Specialist at The American National Bank and let him or her know that someone may have access to your personal information. The bank can close your old account(s) and open new ones for you. The New Accounts Specialist will also transfer your money into new account(s), but only if you appear in person to provide photo ID and sign the necessary documents.
- Create an Identity Theft and Fraud Report to protect yourself going forward and to catch anyone that may attempt to use your old personal information to make a purchase or open an account in your name.
- Order your credit reports, which are free to you on an annual basis. You may also subscribe to a credit report monitoring service, which provides you with real-time updates of activity on your credit reports and your credit scores.
- If you receive federal government benefits and they suddenly stop, contact your Social Security office immediately.
All of the above will help stop any current actions from occurring in your name or on your credit records.
The Waiting Game
While you wait to see if someone is caught red-handed or the authorities are alerted to a crime in action, you can freeze all activity on your credit reports. This prevents anyone from accessing your credit reports for any reason, thereby banning anyone from gaining any sort of credit account with your name on it. You can also request extended fraud alerts for up to seven years after you suspect that someone has stolen your identity.
Protecting Your Identity Going Forward
Protecting your identity going forward is not hard. You just have to be careful about how you share information and who you share it with. For example, do not share your Social Security number with anyone, and always choose encrypted websites to make purchases. Never give your credit card information out over the phone in a public place, and always make sure your security features on your phone and mobile or computing devices are turned on.
There are other devices, such as credit card readers, which can be used at places like gas pumps, to take your financial information as well. To protect yourself against this kind of information theft, always go inside the station to pay for gas with your card. Likewise, be sure you can see what the drive-thru employee is doing with your card when you pay for food, or go into the restaurant to pay. In the event that you lose your wallet or purse, begin calling to cancel all of your cards right away.