AUBURN, Ala. – Identity theft is among the top three consumer complaints in the United States in 2017, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In today’s society, many purchases begin with either “swipe your credit card here” or “insert your credit card into the chip reader below.” How careful are you when making transactions? Someone can take your identity in a matter of moments. The recovery process is often extensive, sometimes taking years to sort out the problem. An Alabama Extension agent discusses what to do in the event that your identity is stolen.
Be Careful When Making Transactions
“The Department of Justice reports the most common concern of identity theft is the misuse of credit cards,” said Dr. Theresa Jones, a certified financial education instructor and Alabama Extension Human Sciences regional agent. “Credit card theft accounts for about half of the cases of identity theft.”
According to Jones, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more for someone to realize that a person stole their identity. This heavily depends on how often a person checks their financial records.
To reduce the chance of someone stealing your identity, always shred financial documents and credit card offers before throwing them away. Also, people should read insurance statements to make sure no one is committing medical identity theft on their behalf.
What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
Jones suggests taking the following steps if someone steals your identity. These recommendations will help resolve the issue and also help regain control of personal information if you are the victim of identity theft. These steps are based on recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission.
- Close accounts that have been tampered with or opened without your consent immediately. In addition, change logins, passwords and PINS for all of your accounts.
- Immediately place a Fraud Alert on your credit reports by calling one or more of the three nationwide credit reporting companies.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285,
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
- Review your credit report carefully for any fraudulent activity that you have no knowledge of and are not your transactions.
- Report that you are a victim of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov. Your report proves to businesses that someone stole your identity. It also guarantees you certain rights. IdentityTheft.gov is a comprehensive, online resource. It provides extensive information on dealing with identity theft as well as checklists and sample letters.
- File a local police report.
To learn more about identity theft, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office. Also, ask about the free Identity Theft Workshop provided by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.