Over the last few years we have been seeing a lot more identity theft being uncovered in our office. During this last tax season we saw several cases where the IRS informed us that a social security number had already been used to file a tax return for a long-time client.
That sparked a series of lunch & learns, this blog, and some general awareness campaigns on this subject.
A common question we get once someone discovers that they had some identity theft is, “What do I do now?”
Below I have complied the “10 Things To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen.”
- Lockdown the problem account – Contact the financial institution, let them know what is going on, dispute the charges, and close the account, if needed.
- Sign up for a credit monitoring service – Not a bad idea for a year or two while you are getting things fixed.
- Scan credit card and bank statements for other unauthorized charges – Check all your other accounts, credit cards, bank statements, for unauthorized charges.
- Review credit reports for mystery accounts – For a couple of years after, it is a good idea to conduct a quarterly review your credit report to verify there aren’t any mystery accounts showing up. You can go to annualcreditreport.com and get a free copy.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission – Go to ftccomplaintassistant.gov or call 877-438-4338 to report your identity theft to the FTC.
- Contact your local police department – In most cases your identity theft will not be local. However, it’s best to create a paper trail showing that you are proactively working on the problem. In addition, your insurance carrier might require it (if you are covered). Do check on this.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports – Contact all three credit bureaus and request a fraud alert be placed on your account. These are normally good for 90 days, so you might want to place the alert again, once the old one expires.
- Open new credit card and financial accounts – Contact all your banks and financial companies and have them close the old accounts, even if they have not been compromised… open new ones.
- Contact your accountant or tax preparer – Your accountant and/or tax preparer will need to file an IRS form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
- Implement preventative measures going forward.
In summary, don’t take this problem lying down because it does not go away unless you work to fix it. I still hear stories about how long it takes, but things are getting better and faster, as most all financial institutions have procedures in place to help you get things back on track.
NOTE: This information should not be considered as tax/legal advice. You should consult your tax/legal advisor regarding your own tax/legal situation.