Stealing now comes in many forms, but one of the most disturbing concerns in this generation is online identity theft. The U.S. Department of Justice defines identity theft as “crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.” Online identity theft is a special kind of crime that involves the use of personal data through online means.
We should accept the fact that the Internet needs better security as this point in time, but there’s only so much that you can do to protect yourself from having your personal information stolen. If you’ve been a victim of online identity theft, here are the necessary steps that you need to take:
1. Contact a credit reporting agency
One of the first attacks related to online identity theft is a hacker’s access to your financial and credit card information. As soon as you discover the suspicious incident, get in touch with one of the three credit reporting agencies – namely TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. According to a Time Magazine article, doing this will “warn potential creditors or lenders that you are an identity theft victim so that they can take extra steps to vet future applications for new credit.”
In addition to this, you should already implement identity theft protection measures to prevent future attacks against your personal data.
2. Report the incident to the card issuer
As the first company to receive information about your purchases and financial transactions, the credit card issuer should be notified of any suspicious or fraudulent activity. Be proactive and report incidents of card theft or unauthorized purchases to the credit card issuer.
3. Contact the authorities
Upon discovery of an online identity theft incident, visit your local police station and tell them what happened. From there, you can request for a filing of a police report, which is required along with the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to complete the Identity Theft Report.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) can also help in this regard. “We use both our criminal and cyber resources—along with our intelligence capabilities—to identify and stop crime groups in their early stages and to root out the many types of perpetrators, which span our investigative priorities,” according to the agency website.
4. Protect your other personal data
Once the identity thief has gotten hold of your financial information, it’s only a matter of time when your other personal data gets compromised. To prevent this from happening, you need to get in touch with the following agencies:
- Social Security Administration: Secure your social security number (SSN), because it’s possible that the thief might use your SSN to empty your tax refund or apply for a job using your information.
- Internal Revenue Service: The thief might gain access to your tax records, and so you need to coordinate with this agency.
- Postal Inspection Service: Secure your physical address to ensure that the identity thief cannot change your mailing address or use it for further fraudulent activities.
These tips should be able to speed up the investigation and prevention of further activity against your financial accounts. Even if you haven’t figured in online identity theft yet, these tips should give you awareness and information on what to do in case it happens.
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