If Someone Steals Your Identity, These Things Will Help

I wish I didn’t have to make a blog post like this, but since I just went through a case of identity theft, I feel I should write this in case someone else ever goes through this situation and needs guidance.

This is not about someone stealing my books. This is a case where someone got a hold of my name, my social security number, my email address, and other personal information in order to get a credit card. I’m not sure how this happened. I try to be careful. But I did already have Lifelock. Even though I had Lifelock, there were some things I needed to do on my own. So even if you don’t have Lifelock, there are some steps you can do to help protect yourself. I’ll mention those first and then get back to Lifelock at the end of this post.

Create an account with the three main credit bureaus.

They are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can freeze your credit and create a fraud alert for free. While no one can guarantee freezing your credit will stop theft, it is better than doing nothing. If you aren’t going to take out debt any time soon, I recommend doing this even if you aren’t a victim of identity theft. If you think your personal information was compromised but aren’t sure, then you’ll want to also place an initial fraud alert. This alert is good for one year. It will make creditors aware that they should make an attempt to contact you directly before allowing any new forms of debt to open up in your name. Is this perfect? I’m sure it’s not, but it offers a better chance of being protected from theft.

When you freeze your credit, you will be given a code. If you decide to apply for a new credit card, mortgage, etc, you can use this code to unfreeze your credit so the creditor can check out your information. One credit bureau gave me the code in an email. The other sent me my code in the mail. Lifelock has a “lock” feature with TransUnion, so I just did that one through my Lifelock dashboard. But I’m sure TransUnion would be similar to the other two. These freezes and initial fraud alerts were easy to set up. And there’s no cost to do them.

I feel that the freeze and initial fraud alert are a good first step. But if you find out someone already took your identity and is using it for utilities, a credit card, or something else, you need to do more.

What if someone stole your identity and you need to fight back?

You have three things to do at this point. And these will take some time. On and off, this took me about two weeks. It took me a few days just to wrap my mind around what was happening and what to do about it. Shock really does immobilize you. Then you have to do a little at a time to get your brain moving in a proactive direction. I didn’t do all of this in one day. I had to do a little at a time.

1. Fill out the event with the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/.

Complete the form as much as you can. For example, if you don’t know who stole your identity, you can’t complete that portion of the form. I didn’t know the person who stole my identity, but I knew the mailing address the credit card went to because this person used my email address when applying for the card. So I was able to supply that address even though I didn’t have the person’s real name. Be as specific as you can. Leave the rest blank.

When you are done with the form, print the completed form. I recommend printing out at leas two copies. You want one for your physical records. You will need a copy to send to one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion.) You might need a copy when filing a local police report. I had one ready for my local police department, but they didn’t take it. I’m sure this depends on your police department.

2. Go to your local police department to report the theft.

This turned out to be the step that took me the longest to do. I searched for police departments in my area. One was closed to the public. Another told me that I wasn’t in the jurisdiction. Thankfully, the person at this department was nice enough to tell me where to go. It was further out from my home than I expected. So save yourself time driving around and make some phone calls first. If you lost actual money, get a copy of the report. I didn’t lose anything. So I was fine with just having the officer’s business card with the report number written on it. In order to receive money back from Lifelock on the theft, I would have had to produce a physical copy of the report.

3. Place an extended fraud alert with one of the three credit bureaus.

The extended fraud alert is when you have actually been a victim of identity theft. You will need either a copy of the local police report OR a copy of the form from the Federal Trade Commission. You will need two forms of ID. You can use a driver’s license or a state issued ID. You can also use your social security card. (There were a couple of other options, but I don’t recall them off the top of my head.) You will need to make copies of these. I did mine in color. I’m not sure if they take a black-and-white copy or not. I also had to print out the form from Experian requesting to file the extended fraud alert.

Note: You only need to send all of this information to ONE of the three credit bureaus. The one you send all of this information to will notify the other two bureaus.

An extended fraud alert is free. It lasts for seven years. I did have to mail this information directly to the credit bureau. So it takes longer than placing the initial fraud alert.

Is a service like Lifelock worth it?

I recommend signing up for something like Lifelock to protect your identity if you can afford it. It does cost money to have something like Lifelock. Unlike the other things I did, this wasn’t free. But I chose to sign up years ago because I’d been dealing with people stealing my books. I figured if someone targeted my books, someone would eventually target me on a financial level.

I’m not going to say which bank this thief went through to get the credit card, but I will say that this bank ignored all of my phone calls and emails when I contacted them to report the theft. It was only because of Lifelock that I was able to have a conference call with them. Lifelock’s AI system did detect the fraud within a day of me getting the first email about the credit card. I did click the “No, it wasn’t me” right away, and then I received an email instructing me of what to do (reporting the theft to the Federal Trade Commission, going to my local police department, freezing my credit and placing the fraud alerts with the credit bureaus). While someone at Lifelock looked into my case, I took care of all of those things. It was about a week and a half before I received a phone call from someone at Lifelock. I don’t know how their system works, but they were making sure it was really “me” who said I didn’t apply for that credit card. Anyway, the call took about 20 minutes, and Lifelock was able to get me through to the bank to finally get that credit card closed out. Now Lifelock is getting that fraudulent credit card off of my credit report for me. I’m sure I could have done that part myself, but I’d rather let Lifelock do it. So that’s why I say Lifelock (or a similar service) is worth having if you can afford it.

If you can’t afford it, then at least you have the other steps I mentioned to help protect yourself. That’s why I figured I’d take the time to make this post. I hope no one here will need this information. It is stressful when stuff like this happens.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to other genres, but her first love is historical romance. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and a couple of children. To find out more about her books, go to https://ruthannnordinsbooks.wordpress.com/.
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