Do these steps right now, in order, and do not wait.
1. Immediately report any stolen credit cards or missing checks to their respective banks or issuers. Make sure you account for each card and check, and contact every lender. Prompt reporting will limit your liability in the event of fraudulent usage.
2. Freeze your credit.
Even if you haven’t been an ID theft victim, the growing consensus is that you should freeze your credit to protect yourself from ID theft. Both freezing and unfreezing your credit is free!
Before doing this step, you may want to quickly sign up for the following services because it’s easier without a freeze in place:
- Credit Karma
- Social Security Administration (It can be helpful to check your earnings if you’ve had IRS issues due to identity theft.)
Freeze your credit at each of these credit agencies:
- Experian Security Freeze
- Equifax Security Freeze
- TransUnion Security Freeze
- Innovis Security Freeze
You must file a separate report with each agency. It’s free and once you freeze your credit reports, no bank or lender will be able to pull your credit reports. This will prevent identity thieves from opening lines of credit, credit cards, or other loans in your name. This will also prevent you from taking out your own loans or credit lines, unless you either temporarily thaw your credit, or permanently unfreeze them. You will be mailed a confirmation letter with a PIN code, and you must use that PIN code to initiate any temporary or permanent unfreezing. Keep these PIN codes filed in a safe and secure place!
If a freeze seems too inconvenient to you, another option is to place an online fraud alert (and unlike a freeze you only have to do it with one agency, they will report the alert to the others). With an active fraud alert, businesses must verify your identity before issuing new credit so you may be contacted. Fraud alerts last for one year, but it is also possible to get an extended fraud alert that lasts for seven years if you have filed a police report or an FTC Identity Theft Report.
3. Place a security freeze with ChexSystems.
You should freeze your ChexSystems online too.
Most banks and credit unions use ChexSystems to screen new customers. This step will make it harder for thieves to open a bank account in your name. This works the same as the above credit reporting agencies and it is free. This is not foolproof because some banks don’t use ChexSystems, but this will prevent some scams.