Identity theft, phone scams, internet scams and similar practices are very common. Scammers are very good at what they do, and can fool even the most careful of consumers.
Unfortunately, much damage can be done in these types of scams: People can lose a lot of money and sensitive personal information may be obtained. It is advisable for the victim of identity theft or a scam to take immediate action.
Here are 5 steps you should take to get back on track after falling victim to an online scam or identity theft:
- Notify companies that have your financial information: After learning that identity theft occurred, immediately notify all companies or third parties that have access to your money, bank accounts, financial accounts, credit cards, etc. Your credit card company, for example, can immediately freeze your account and send you a new card. Write down what companies you notify for easy reference in the future.
- Notify credit reporting agencies: After a breach, notify one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. Tell them that your identity has been stolen and add a fraud alert, if necessary. You may also want to consider freezing your credit. This makes it difficult or impossible for a scammer to open a new account in your name. You will have to do this for each of the three credit reporting agencies.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: You can choose whether to file a complaint for identity theft, a scam or another incident. Request a copy of the complaint.
- Notify local law enforcement: What has occurred may be considered a crime, and you may be considered the victim. It is important to notify local law enforcement to protect yourself in case the scammer uses your name or personal information to commit a crime.
- File a dispute with credit reporting agencies: Under federal law, you can dispute any information that is inaccurate in your credit report. This must be done with each individual credit reporting agency (see #2, above).
You may be tempted to hire a credit repair company to help undo the damage that has been done. However, if you take the steps listed above, you will essentially be doing what the credit repair company will do.
Remember: Getting your identity back – undoing the damage that has been done – can take time. Get started as quickly as possible and be persistent to ensure that your personal information is kept safe.