One of the biggest financial threats facing consumers is having their digital identity stolen. In addition to financial losses, identity theft is also frustrating and time-consuming to fix. In fact, it can take months (or even years) for victims to recover from identity theft. That's because digital identity impacts many aspects of everyone's lives, including banking, credit, shopping, etc. Therefore, victims of identity theft must take significant steps to restore their digital identity.
If you fall victim to identity theft, the first thing you must do is contact all of your banks and credit cards. Alerting your financial institutions is critical because you want to stop identity thieves from stealing more from you. Once you close your old accounts, you can then open new accounts.
The next thing you need to do is place a freeze on your credit report. A credit freeze will bar companies from getting your credit report. That is important to keep thieves from opening fraudulent accounts using your identity. The Federal Trade Commission website has information about freezing your credit. The site also offers more information about extended fraud alerts for victims.
After you close your old accounts and freeze your credit, you must begin the process of disputing fraudulent charges. The laws are different when it comes to challenging credit card fraud and debit card fraud. Your financial institutions will explain the process of disputing charges in more detail to you. Unfortunately, victims might be held liable (up to a certain amount) if they don't notice the fraudulent charges in time.
You will also need to contact each of the credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- to fix errors on your credit report. You can get a free credit report (from each organization) annually. You will need to go through your report and contact all of the agencies about fixing mistakes. Unfortunately, the credit agencies can take a long time to fix all of the errors on your report.
The last step in restoring your digital identity is to prevent it from getting stolen again. Monitoring your credit report alone isn't enough because it only catches thieves after they steal from you. That's why you need full credit monitoring services from companies like LifeLock, Identity Guard, and IDShield. Credit monitoring companies will alert you anytime someone attempts to open an account in your name. The service will notify you if your Social Security number appears on the dark web. If you do fall victim again, credit monitoring companies will work to restore your digital identity.
In short, identity theft is a devastating crime - costing victims money and headaches. Unfortunately for victims, restoring their digital identity is a long process. If you fall victim to identity thieves, you must immediately alert all of your financial institutions. It's important that you freeze your credit report to prevent thieves from opening accounts in your name as well.
You will then need to work with your financial institutions to dispute fraudulent charges. You will also need to contact all credit reporting agencies to fix any mistakes on your credit report. Finally, credit monitoring services can cut your risk of identity theft in the future.