What do you do if, while filing for bankruptcy, you discover that someone has stolen your identity and racked up a bunch of debt in your name? Most people don’t expect to be a victim of identity theft, but the real question begs to be answered. What do you do now? Let’s talk about how to prevent identity theft and what to do if you find yourself victimized.
What is Identity Theft?
There are many ways that one can fall victim to identity theft. Thieves oftentimes will steal your purse or wallet, or dig through your trash to get personal information from you. They will even go so far as to hack into your computer. Identity theft has become one of the nation’s fastest growing crimes.
Because of the increase in crimes, the government has laws now that cover a multitude of fraudulent crimes. In 1998, the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrent Act made identity theft a federal crime. In 2004 the Theft Penalty Enhancement Act passed, which made sentences longer. It also involved several other agencies such as the FBI, Secret Service, and the Federal Trade Commission. If it’s determined that the crime was linked to terrorism, penalties are even more severe.
Preventing Identity Theft
One of the most basic things you can do to prevent your identity from being stolen is guard it. Be aware of your surroundings at ATM machines, and protect your PIN. Take some time to make a password that isn’t simple to guess. It should include capitals, numbers, and a special character. Other ways you can protect your identity is to never carry your social security card on your person. If someone steals your wallet, they also get a key ingredient to your identity. One of the last things people do, should be one of the first, and that’s to monitor your credit report! That way if someone does open an account in your name, you can catch it quickly and limit the damage done.
What do I do if I’m a Victim?
If you discover that you have indeed become a victim of identity theft, you need to be aware of the steps you should take. First there are three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. You need to contact all of them and initiate a fraud alert on your report. Next, contact your local police department and file a report with them. When you contact the bank or credit card that is affected, they will want the case number from the police department. Don’t forget to also contact the Federal Trade Commission to let them know what has happened as well.
Oftentimes, people don’t know what to do when they discover they are a victim of identity theft. If you have been victimized and you are also considering filing for bankruptcy, give me a call. I may be able to help answer your questions and guide you back to financial well-being.