Today marks the two-week anniversary of having our car stolen. After years of parking in sketchy areas of Detroit, our car was stolen from a seemingly safe area within the city. However, given the current economy, it’s no surprise that grand theft auto is on the rise. It’s a sad state of affairs in our region.
We’ll spare you the details of our travails. However, considering that my wife and l both had our laptops stolen with the car, we thought we’d share with you the lessons we’ve learned on protecting yourself from identity theft when personal information is compromised.
What To Do If Your Identity Has Been Compromised
- File a police report and specify that there is the potential for identity theft.
- Immediately contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TranUnion) and place a fraud alert on your credit report. An initial fraud alert stays in your file for at least 90 days while an extended alert stays in your file for seven years. It is not necessary to contact all three major agencies; by filing a report with one, the others receive notification within 24 hours. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
A fraud alert requires potential creditors to either contact you or take reasonable steps to verify your identity. This may cause some delays if you’re trying to obtain credit. To compensate for possible delays, you may wish to include a cell phone number, where you can be reached easily, in your alert.
Be sure to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
- File a complaint with the FTC. This is another means to document the situation in case fraudulent activities should occur on your accounts.
- Were the keys to your home or your garage door opener lost in the theft? If so, immediately change the locks on your home. Additionally, reset the frequency on your garage door opener.
- Believe it or not, the scallywag might contact you. Therefore, we recommend immediately contacting your phone service provider to unscramble blocked numbers. This is a service that you can purchase at any time.
- Reset all passwords on online accounts.
- Contact all organizations that you have accounts with (banks, utilities, credit, etc.) and alert them of the theft. Request an additional security measure that requires you, the account holder, to provide information that would not be included in standard documentation (now they possibly have access to maiden names and all the other standard “security” questions/prompts). Additionally, make sure that you continue to receive statements on a regular basis. Thoroughly review them for any fraudulent activity.
- Cancel all extraneous accounts that are not often used.