5 Immediate Steps to Take If Your Identity Is Stolen

5 Immediate Steps to Take if Your Identity is Stolen

According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research*, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion over the past six years. Events such as last year’s Equifax breach have further forced the issue into the spotlight. While there’s no question that identity theft can leave you feeling vulnerable, you can take effective steps to keep your personal and financial information out of the wrong hands.

Step 1: Notify any affected financial institutions 

As soon as you suspect one of your accounts may have been compromised, contact the financial institution immediately. Oftentimes when you call them, banks and creditors offer an option to speak with a fraud protection agent in their opening automated prompt. If fraudulent activity is detected, closing the account as quickly as possible can save you from being liable for any unauthorized charges. Most credit cards now include zero-liability policies, but don't wait a single minute to report any activity you don't recognize. 

Step 2: File a police report 

After shutting down any affected accounts, file a police report. Be as specific as possible – list all of your compromised accounts, and provide any supporting documents you can. Before you file your report, also consider reporting the crime on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) IdentityTheft.gov  page, and bring a copy of the report to the police station. 

Step 3: Flag your credit report

After you've contacted the affected financial institution, call one of the three credit reporting agencies and request a fraud alert to be placed on your credit file. Here's their contact information:

Equifax: 1-888-766-0008 
Experian: 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

No matter which agency you call, the fraud alert will be placed on all three of your credit files for 90 days. During that time, businesses will need to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. This may require contacting you, so be sure you've updated your credit report with your current contact information.  The alert will also allow you to order an additional free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. It's a great preventative measure to take, and will help ensure thieves can't open any fraudulent accounts in your name. Ordering a credit freeze is a deeper and more secure measure to take.

Step 4: Consider a credit freeze

A credit freeze gives you maximum control over who has access to your credit – including lenders and creditors. Without your approval, your credit report will be inaccessible. There are a few pros and cons to this step, so give this serious thought before you take action. 

Pros:

  • Thieves won't be able to open fraudulent accounts in your name
  • You can still access your own credit records as usual
  • Has no effect on your credit score

Cons:

  • New lenders and creditors are unlikely to approve any new credit lines while the freeze is active
  • There's often a fee to initiate the freeze, as well as when giving someone access (potential landlord, creditors, etc.)
  • Won't affect any accounts that have already been compromised

With a credit freeze in place, even you will have to take special steps to apply for credit. You can still open new accounts, apply for a job, rent an apartment, buy insurance, refinance your mortgage, or do anything else that requires your credit report. But the inquiring party will need to verify your identity, so they may need to request that you call the credit reporting company to lift the freeze in order to review your credit report. This often requires a small fee each time you want to give someone access.

Stringent laws require you to contact each credit reporting agency separately to place a credit freeze. Any applicable costs depend on where you live. In Washington state, the fee for placing a freeze is $10.95. 

Step 5: Change your passwords

It's a safe bet that if an identify thief stole your information, they probably have access to your passwords as well. Change these passwords immediately, including any accounts that you don't believe have been affected. Avoid using obvious passwords, such as those that include your birthdate or portions of your Social Security number.

Moving forward

Remember that recovering from identity theft takes time, but it is possible. Stay vigilant. Continue checking your accounts and monitoring your credit report. And most importantly, don't give up! If you need help or have questions, the BECU member services team is here for you. 

If you suspect fraudulent activity on any of your BECU accounts, contact us right away:

Lost, stolen or fraudulent charges on debit card

Regular business hours:
Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. PST 
Saturday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. PST
800-233-2328

After hours:
888-241-2510 

Lost, stolen or fraudulent charges on Visa card

Regular business hours:
Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. PST 
Saturday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. PST
800-233-2328

After hours:
800-449-7728

Helpful Resources

*(2017, February 1st) 2017 Identity Fraud Study - Javelin Strategy & Research Retrieved from https://www.javelinstrategy.com/press-release/identity-fraud-hits-record-high-154-million-us-victims-2016-16-percent-according-new