Discovering you’ve been the victim of fraud can leave you frightened, confused and unsure of what to do to resolve the effects of the crime. Cleaning up the mess someone else has made of your finances will take time and effort.
Fraud can take many forms, from unauthorized use of a stolen credit card to identity theft that uses your personal information to open new lines of credit. Whatever form it takes, if you’re a victim of fraud, you should immediately follow these five fraud resolution tips:
1. Notify everyone.
If your bank account has been misused, of course your first call will be to the bank to close the affected account. But make sure you also notify other service providers that may be affected. Instances of fraud rarely occur as singletons; successful criminals will want to get as much out of their crime as possible so one instance of fraud is a good indication that there may be more you haven’t yet discovered.
2. Enact fraud alerts.
If you’re working with a fraud resolution agent through an identity theft protection service, he or she can enact fraud alerts with the major credit bureaus at your request. Or, you can do this yourself by contacting each directly. Placing a fraud alert on your accounts lets the credit bureaus know that your identity has been compromised.
3. Get help.
If you don’t have an identity theft protection service, you’ll need to do a lot of the resolution work on your own. But you might be able to find help through some government agencies or consumer groups. Check out websites for the Identity Theft Resource center (ITRC.org) and the Identity Theft Assistance Center (identitytheftassistance.org) to see what resources and advice are available.
4. Report the crime.
Fraud and identity theft are crimes. The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers to file a police report when they’re the victims of fraud or identity theft. This could help you out with credit bureaus or creditors who want proof of the crime, the FTC says.
5. Beef up prevention efforts.
Being the victim of fraud doesn’t mean you did anything wrong or were not vigilant enough. But it should inspire you to boost your prevention efforts. In addition to all your fraud resolution steps, follow preventative measures like changing account passwords, shredding mail before throwing it away, and limiting use of your Social Security number.