You’ve Become a Victim of Identity Theft, Now What?

If you become one of many that fall victim to identity theft, don’t panic. There are steps you can take to retrieve the money that was stolen from you.

No matter how you manage to find out that there were fraudulent charges on your account, immediately call your bank or credit card company to report the activity.

Depending on your bank or card company, several things might happen next, which include freezing your account, crediting the amount lost and starting an investigation.

As soon as you inform your financial institution of the fraud, they will freeze your account and issue a new debit or credit card that is usually mailed to you within 24-48 hours.

Your bank or card issuer will then go over the most recent transactions posted to your account, at which time you can point out the charges made by the thief. After this happens, they will start an investigation and contact the merchant for proof of sale. If the merchant cannot show the bank or credit card company a receipt with your real signature or any other type of sufficient proof that you were the one who made the purchase, the investigation will conclude.

The investigation process usually takes up to 90 days but a lot of banks credit you the money upfront, while they are looking into the matter. Other credit cards like American Express will issue you an immediate credit while they investigate, so that you are never paying for a fraudulent charge.

After you take care of alerting your bank or credit card company, you should then contact the three main credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Request your credit report and let them know that someone has stolen your identity. They will then flag your account and watch closely to see if any unusual activity occurs. Call other creditors as well so you can limit as much damage as quickly as possible.

It could also be helpful to make a police report because many creditors will ask for proof of documentation that these false charges actually took place.

Social security numbers are most frequently stolen when it comes to identity theft. If you think someone has access to your social security number you can call the social security fraud hotline at (800) 269-0271.

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