Today, I received a text from a dear family member stating that his credit card number (not the card) had been stolen and that his bank had caught the culprits in the act of trying to make gasoline and other small purchases in states far away. My first response was “oh no”. My second and third responses may inform further actions that any victim of identity theft can and should take immediately to be protected from further intrusions into her privacy. After all, identity theft is nothing less than this according to the US Department of Justice website:
“… identity theft is a crime. Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of 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.”
Thank goodness for my family member the affected bank had already caught the situation and dealt with it by closing the account and issuing a new credit card. But as consumers, we must also take some actions to further protect ourselves. Here are a couple of things to do right away if you discover or are notified that any of your credit or financial accounts may be compromised through ID theft:
– Contact your lenders and/or place a fraud alert on your credit report so that other charges would be noted and stopped ahead of any further theft.
– Immediately change passwords on financial and credit accounts in particular.
– Check out the invaluable resources at the Federal Trade Commission website that will inform you of all things ID theft – identitytheft.gov.
Above all, don’t wait a minute if you believe your identity has been stolen or compromised. The fact is that it can take up to 200 hours, or six months of precious time and energy (and much anxiety) to get the resulting problems fixed.