Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone uses another person’s personal identifiable information (name, SSN/SSI, driver’s license, credit card, etc.) to commit fraud or other crimes. This could include fraudulently opening new lines of credit and even committing crimes in another person’s name. Learn more about identity theft

 

STEP 1: Take Immediate Action (Prevent Further Impact)

As your identity is the key to so many crucial activities, time is of the essence in responding to and limiting the impact of identity theft. If you believe somebody is making fraudulent transactions in your name, take the following steps. These are critical, must-do steps that should be done in the following order:

  1. Contact all affected companies, credit lenders, and bank accounts to:
    1. Notify them of the identity theft
    2. Dispute any fraudulent charges
    3. Cancel all affected cards
    4. Close any new accounts that were opened in your name 
      1. Be sure to use the contact information on the company’s official website, billing statement or the back of the card. 
      2. The information you provide is crucial. Here are some samples of letters you can use when notifying these companies in writing. 
  2. Save any documents, screenshots, or emails as proof of any fraudulent activity that has taken place. Consider starting an identity theft file. 
  3. Consider putting a lock or freeze on your credit.
  4. Consider filing a police report.
  5. Beware of scammers offering credit repair services, which are bogus, expensive promises to allegedly improve your credit. Learn more about these scams.
  6. Report any identity theft incident you have encountered with IdentityTheft.gov or the Identity Theft Resource Center. These organizations can connect you to extra resources and help you create a recovery plan.  

 

STEP #2: Warn Others (Report a Scam)

Good job on taking the first steps to control the situation. We recommend taking a few moments to report the scam, which can help us fight fraud. Please consider reporting the incident you encountered to BBB Scam Tracker, our prevention and reporting platform. Reporting the scam to the proper channels can help law enforcement shut down scam operations that prey on others. BBB shares all scam reports with the FTC, and we publish key information from the reports, enabling the public to determine if they are being targeted. Learn more about BBB Scam Tracker.

  • Are you a victim of Medicare fraud? If so, report the incident to the Senior Medical Patrol organization, which aids in stopping Medicare errors, fraud, and theft. Report at smpresource.org
  • Report the incident to the organization where the false identity is being used.
    This could include the Social Security Administration, a social media company, your financial institution, etc.

 

STEP #3:Take Important Next Steps to Recover

Thank you for reporting the scam! Now that you’ve taken the first critical steps to protect yourself, it’s time to investigate and learn the extent of any damage you and others may have suffered from your account being compromised. Once you know more, you can respond more thoroughly. We’ve outlined some next steps for you to consider. If you put several of these into practice, you’ll be safer day-to-day. Each situation can be different at this stage; the following steps are not exhaustive or in any particular order:

  • Check your personal contact information on important accounts to ensure that it has not been changed/modified.
  • Consider notifying the people in your life to ensure they are aware and can offer support:
  • Was your medical information compromised?
    • If so, contact your health provider and insurance company and inform them about the incident.
  • Use a password manager to reset and store unique passwords for each individual online account. Repeat passwords are among the biggest vulnerabilities in all types of online crime, including identity theft.
  • Consider using an identity theft protection service which, for a price, can monitor your credit and financial accounts, notify you of suspicious activity, and help you recover lost funds.
  • Set up the defense mechanism known as “multi-factor authentication” or “MFA” for short. To learn more about MFA and how to use it, read our FAQ.
  • If you really want to step up your security, download an MFA authenticator app which provides a more secure method of accessing your account.
  • Speaking of MFA, never share the one-time passcodes that are sent to your phone or email inbox with anyone, and remember that no legitimate company will ever ask you to tell them the one-time passcode over the phone or in a customer support chat.
  • If you want a more hands-on approach, you can request a copy of your own credit report – for free – from any of the three major credit agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) at AnnualCreditReport.com.

 

STEP #4: Avoid Future Scams (Learn How)

Research indicates that knowledge about scams and scam tactics can help people spot and avoid scams that will inevitably target them. The unfortunate truth is that scammers will always try to steal data, money, and important information from people, and that even when scammers are caught, others will replace them. The best defense, then, is to understand what a scam looks like and how to respond.  Protect yourself and your loved ones by learning more about scam types and tactics. Visit BBB’s Scam Prevention Guide.  

 

More Resources
The following resources can help guide you in scam education, response, and reporting:

Identity theft resources

Setting up multi-factor authentication

Check your email for potential breaches

Canadian resources

Active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their spouses