What to do if you have become a victim of identity theft and how to achieve identity theft protection
Identity theft and identity fraud are some of the fastest growing and most popular crimes of the 21st century. Summit Brokerage’s initial blog on this topic provided a cursory review of these crimes. The blog also suggested that given the rising popularity of these crimes and how much victims can lose, in order to best safeguard yourself, identify theft protection should now be a necessary element of your financial planning process. In Summit’s second blog on this identity theft topic, we delineated some of the most important steps you can take to minimize your risk level for becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud. In this instant blog, which is Summit’s third and final blog on identity theft and financial planning, we will discuss what do if you have become a victim of identity theft or fraud.
Warning Signs of Identity Theft
When it comes to reporting identify theft or fraud, time is of the essence. The earlier you figure out that you are a victim of one of these crimes, the easier it will be to minimize and repair the damage. According to the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov resource, here is a list of clues that you may be a victim of identity theft or fraud. (Note: this list is not intended to be comprehensive; but rather just highlight some major warning signs of identity theft.)
- You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain;
- You don’t get your bills or other mail;
- Merchants refuse your checks;
- Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours;
- You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report;
- Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use;
- Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit;
- A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have;
- The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for; and/or
- You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
Help! What to Do If You Think You’re a Victim of Identity Theft or Fraud
First, make sure that you take action NOW. Every minute you prolong taking action, the more difficult and devastating this crime can become. Here’s your basic roadmap of action steps, as provided from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Fraud Section:
- Call the companies, creditors, merchants, banks, and etc. where you know the fraud may have occurred.
- “Immediately place a fraud alert with any one of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). When you place a fraud alert at any one credit bureau, it will notify the other two for you. A fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have a fraud alert, your credit report will be flagged. The fraud alert notifies credit card issuers to verify your identity before issuing credit.” (Note: placing a fraud alert is free.)
- Immediately report the suspected identity theft to the FTC by going to gov or calling 1-877-438-4338. Include as many details as possible in your report. Then based on the information and details you provide, IdentityTheft.gov will help you create your Identity Theft Report and personal recovery plan.
- File a report with your local police department. Tell the police you believe you are a victim of identity theft or fraud and that you need to file a police report. This step of the process will typically entail going to your local police office with the following information: a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, a government-issued ID with a photo, proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement, and/or utilities bill), and any other proof you have of the identity theft or fraud crime—bills, IRS notices, and etc. Make sure to ask for a copy of the police report as you may need this police report to complete other steps in your identity theft recovery plan.
Make Sure to Use the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov Resource for Identity Theft Victims
With identity theft crimes on the rise and seemingly daily reports of data breaches and scams, identity theft has become a huge concern for consumers, law enforcement, and government agencies. Recovering from identity theft and fraud has historically been an intensely time-consuming, arduous, frustrating, and often expensive process. Fortunately, the FTC launched a new interactive, online tool in 2015 that aims to make it easier for victims to report and recover from the devastation of identity theft crimes. This FTC tool for identity theft victims is ItentityTheft.gov. (Note: there is also a Spanish counterpart to this FTC tool: RobodeIdentidad.gov.)
This powerful FTC resource for identity theft victims will guide victims step-by-step through reporting the identity theft crime and creating a personalized recovery plan. This infographic from the site gives a simplistic overview of how the process works:
IdentityTheft.gov is intended to be a one-stop resource for victims. It provides victims with interactive and printable checklists, sample letters and other materials that are intended to simplify and speed up the recovery process, and helps victims understand what steps that must take as soon as they learn that they are a victim of identity theft or fraud.
Given the soaring popularity of these devastating crimes, identity theft prevention, protection, and (when applicable) recovery should be a necessary element of your financial planning process. Whether you want to set up a preventative identity theft protection plan or if you are currently a victim of identity theft or fraud and need help with the recovery and restoration process, we strongly encourage you to work with an experienced, trustworthy financial advisor or planner.
To experience the Summit difference and learn more about our network of independent financial advisors, visit https://www.summitbrokerage.com or call us at (800) 354-5528. To learn more and find a local Summit financial advisor you feel comfortable with, both personally and professionally, visit https://repoffice.summitbrokerage.com/locator/index.aspx
To learn more and find a local Summit Financial Advisor you feel comfortable with, both personally and professionally, visit https://repoffice.summitbrokerage.com/locator/index.aspx
About Summit Brokerage Services, Inc.
Summit Brokerage Services is part of Cetera Financial Group. Summit Brokerage provides a broad range of securities brokerage and investment services to primarily individual investors. Summit Brokerage also sells insurance products, predominantly fixed and variable annuities and life insurance through its subsidiary, SBS Insurance Agency of Florida. Summit Brokerage also provides asset management services through its investment advisor, Summit Financial Group, Inc.
About Cetera Financial Group
Cetera Financial Group® (“Cetera”) is a leading network of independent retail broker-dealers empowering the delivery of objective financial planning advice to individuals, families and company retirement plans across the country through trusted financial advisors and financial institutions. Cetera is the second-largest independent financial advisor network in the nation by number of advisors, as well as a leading provider of retail services to the investment programs of banks and credit unions.
Through its multiple distinct firms, Cetera offers independent and institutions-based advisors the benefits of a large, established broker-dealer and registered investment adviser, while serving advisors and institutions in a way that is customized to their needs and aspirations. Independent financial advisor support resources offered through Cetera include award-winning wealth management and financial planning and advisory platforms, comprehensive broker-dealer and registered investment adviser services, practice management support and innovative technology. For more information, visit www.ceterafinancialgroup.com.
*”Cetera Financial Group” refers to the network of retail independent broker-dealers encompassing, among others, Cetera Advisors, Cetera Advisor Networks, Cetera Financial Institutions, Cetera Financial Specialists, First Allied Securities, Girard Securities, The Legend Group and Summit Brokerage Services.