COLORADO SPRINGS — Many of our viewers have recently experienced identity theft and continue to reach out to News5 asking what to do next. We get some of those answers from crime experts.
Unfortunately, once someone gets their hands on your social security number and date of birth these are numbers that will not change, but the experts say you shouldn't panic. Instead, take these steps to stop future fraud.
The first step, freeze your credit. Any time you do something big financially, the credit card issuer, mortgage lender, or auto loan company pulls your credit report. If the creditors can't pull that report because it's frozen. The fraudsters will be denied access too.
"This is a free tool that restricts access to your credit report. It's a way of stopping identity theft before it starts. You contact each of the nationwide credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can do it online, you can do it by phone. And they'll give you a pin number or a password, something that you have to safeguard and be very careful with, but only you have that," said Court TV identity theft crimes expert Julia Grant. "Go online, put in your pin number, select the window of time you want it to be lifted. And then put that freeze back on when you're done."
Next, carefully review your credit report on a regular basis. Pikes Peak region cybersecurity expert Dr. Erik Huffman says it's not always obvious you've been the victim of identity theft. So, you need to look closely.
"Checking your credit. Not just your credit score, but the credit report to see what's going on because your score may not be impacted. You may be doing very well financially and you may have like a 790 and it may drop down to like a 780 and you don't even know why. You may assume it's just the fluctuation of the score and little do you know, there's a loan taken out," said Dr. Huffman.
Experts suggest that you print that credit report out, sit down with a highlighter, and study it. You should be able to tell which credit cards are yours. You should know the amounts and pay special attention if you see that a mobile service provider has pulled your report, because that's often an indication of the start of identity theft because thieves need a phone registered in your name to complete account set-ups that require for two-factor authentication.
Fraud investigators ask that you please report your identity theft experience.
"Absolutely report that to the local Better Business Bureau, the FTC if there is any overlap there because what that does is it creates statistics if nothing else and fraud experts and researchers we can allocate certain resources to certain areas and we can track problems and trends," said CSU Global's "Dr. Fraud" J. Michael Skiba.
There have been so many problems with identity theft, the three major credit reporting agencies have decided to extend their offer of free weekly credit reports until April 2022. To learn more, visit the Federal Trade Commission's blog on the subject.
Colorado's attorney general also provides an identity theft tool kit to help people recover from the experience. Click here for Stop Fraud Colorado resources.
Here are 10 steps you can take after experiencing identity theft:
1. File a claim with your identity theft insurance, if you have one.
2. Notify companies of your stolen identity.
3. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
4. Contact your local police department.
5. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
6. Freeze your credit.
7. Sign up for a credit monitoring service, if offered.
8. Tighten security on your accounts.
9. Review your credit reports for mystery accounts.
10. Scan credit card and bank statements for unauthorized charges.