ways to prevent identity theft

Identity Theft: What Now?

Best Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

So, what can you do to be 100% safe online? Ready for the answer? Nothing. No person or business can ever achieve 100% locked down security unless you put your valuable information in the safe, put the safe in a bigger safe, and never go near it or use it. However, you can do some things that will make your data not worth the time and effort of a hacker or cybercriminal, and they will move on the next target that isn't as much trouble.

If your identity has been stolen or exposed in a data breach use the tabs below to find the best and latest information on next steps to protect yourself and help restore your privacy and identity. For full awareness and proactive protection check out the Prilock Security Awareness Training for tips and tricks to protect your privacy and avoid identity theft.

What to Do Right Away

Did someone steal and use your personal information? Act quickly to limit the damage.

Step 1: Call the companies where you know fraud occurred.

You might have to contact these companies again after you have an Identity Theft Report.

Step 2: Place a fraud alert and get your credit report.

A fraud alert is free. It will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name.

You’ll get a letter from each credit bureau. It will confirm that they placed a fraud alert on your file.

Did you already order your free annual reports this year? If so, you can pay to get your report immediately. Or follow the instructions in each fraud alert confirmation letter to get a free report, but it might take longer.

Step 3: Report identity theft to the FTC.

Based on the information you enter, the FTC complaint system will create your Identity Theft Affidavit. You’ll need this to complete other steps.

Do you need to update your affidavit? Call 1-877-438-4338.

Step 4: File a report with your local police department.

  • a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit

  • a government-issued ID with a photo

  • proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement, or utilities bill)

  • any other proof you have of the theft (bills, IRS notices, etc.)

  • FTC's Memo to Law Enforcement [PDF]
Identity Theft Affidavit plus Police Report equals Identity Theft Report

Your identity theft report proves to businesses that someone stole your identity. It also guarantees you certain rights.

Are Your Devices Secure?

Step 1: Best Practices

  • Use Strong Passwords.

A strong password uses upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols and is at least 8-10 characters long. Just 4 numbers has 10,000 possible combinations. Use extended pins on your phones, Apple now allows 6 digits, or up to 37 with different settings.

  • There are 5 programs to be updated regularly:
    Operating System - Browsers - Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Java - Antivirus Software.

Keep your Operating System, Browsers, and programs updated as soon as updates are released. Once updates are released hackers try to infect as many devices as possible before they are updated, beat them to the punch.

Set up a User account(s) and use it for all you Internet activities. Admin accounts should only be used to set up User accounts, install software, and control their privileges. Admin accounts can allow hackers to install malware without your knowledge.

While AV software does not catch all threats it does provide important protections for all devices.

Use free software that will protect your WiFi data when using public WiFi.

Don't pay bills, do online banking, or log into critical accounts while on public WiFi

Step 2: Smartphones

  • Set a PIN Code- Just 4 numbers has 10,000 possible combinations.

  • See the Smartphone pdf and learn how to have a 2 to 37-character Apple device PIN.

  • Only install trusted apps from the Apple & Google stores, they have the best screening process.

  • Always keep your smartphone with you. It takes less than 60 seconds to install a listening app on your phone.

  • Use free security apps to protect your devices and keep them backed up. See the list below.

  • Enable remote location and wiping. Over 4.5 million phones were lost or stolen in 2013.

  • Public WiFi networks are dangerous. Use free communication security programs to be safe.

  • Keep your phone and laptop on your lap or in your hand in taxis.

  • Wipe your old phone and devices before disposing of or recycling.

Step 3: WiFi

  • Turn off the SSID broadcast on your router or access point. This broadcasts your WiFi name to anyone in range.

  • Give it a special name that doesn't identify anything about you or your location. When you connect, select other networks from your WiFi panel and type in the name and password. You now have WiFi and only those you tell will know about it.

  • Verify the name of the network with the staff before you connect. If connecting with Windows, be sure to turn off file sharing and mark the WiFi connection as a public network. This will keep the device from automatically logging into the network without your knowledge.

  • When you are done working online - turn off your WiFi. You can always turn it on again later when you need it.

  • Do not enter credit cards, logins, passwords, or personally identifiable information when using public WiFi without special VPN software. See our list of free programs.

Step 4: Social Engineering and Phishing

  • Understand that every email address will be increasingly attacked with phishing emails, because cyber thieves know they work. Phone calls using social engineering will also increase.

  • Initiate ALL contact with your accounts yourself.

  • Never click a link or dial a phone number given to you by phone or email.

  • Your bank, credit card company, and other credit accounts will NEVER call or email you to ask for personal identifiable information such as social security numbers, account numbers, pins, or passwords. If contacted and asked for these hang up or delete immediately.

Your Next Steps

Take a deep breath and begin to repair the damage.

Close new accounts opened in your name.

  • Explain that someone stole your identity.

  • Ask the business to close the account.

  • Ask the business to send you a letter confirming that:

    • the fraudulent account isn’t yours

    • you aren’t liable for it

    • it was removed from your credit report

  • Keep this letter. Use it if the account appears on your credit report later on.

The business may require you to send them a copy of your Identity Theft Report or complete a special dispute form. This sample letter can help.

Remove bogus charges from your accounts.

  • Explain that someone stole your identity.

  • Tell them which charges are fraudulent. Ask the business to remove them.

  • Ask the business to send you a letter confirming they removed the fraudulent charges.

  • Keep this letter. Use it if this account appears on your credit report later on.

The business may require you to send them a copy of your Identity Theft Report or complete a special dispute form. This sample letter can help.

Correct your credit report.

  • Include a copy of your Identity Theft Report and proof of your identity, like your name, address, and Social Security number.

  • Explain which information on your report came from identity theft.

  • Ask them to block that information.

If someone steals your identity, you have the right to remove fraudulent information from your credit report. This is called blocking. Once the information is blocked, it won’t show up on your credit report, and companies can’t try to collect the debt from you. If you have an Identity Theft Report, credit bureaus must honor your request to block this information.

If you don’t have an Identity Theft Report, you still can dispute incorrect information in your credit file. It can take longer, and there’s no guarantee that the credit bureaus will remove the information.

Consider adding an extended fraud alert or credit freeze.

Extended Fraud Alert Credit Freeze
Lets you have access to your credit report as long as companies take steps to verify your identity Stops all access to your credit report unless you lift or remove it
Free to place and remove if someone stole your identity. Guaranteed by federal law. Cost and availability depend on your state law. There might be a small fee for placing, lifting and removing.
Lasts for 7 years Lasts until you lift or remove
Set it by contacting each of the three credit bureaus:

  1. Report that someone stole your identity. Request an extended fraud alert.

  2. Complete any necessary forms and send a copy of your Identity Theft Report.
Set it by contacting each of the 3 credit bureaus.

  1. Report that someone stole your identity.

  2. Ask the company to put a freeze on your credit file.

  3. Pay the fee required by state law
For fraud alerts: For credit freezes:

Extended fraud alerts and credit freezes can help prevent further misuse of your personal information. There are important differences. This chart can help you decide which might be right for you.

Other Steps You Can Take

Depending on your situation, you might need to take additional steps.

Resolve tax-related identity theft.

Did the notice say you were paid by an employer you don't know? Send a letter to the employer explaining that someone stole your identity, and that you don’t work for the employer.

You might have to mail paper tax returns.

If these steps don’t resolve your situation, contact the IRS’s Identity Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

Report a misused Social Security number.

Stop debt collectors from trying to collect debts you don't owe.

  • Tell the debt collector someone stole your identity, and you don’t owe the debt.

  • Send copies of your Identity Theft Report and any other documents that detail the theft.

  • Explain that this is not your debt.

  • Tell them to stop reporting this debt to the credit bureaus.

  • Ask for information about the debt, and how it happened. The business must give you details if you ask.

For example, if someone opened a credit card in your name, ask for a copy of the application and applicant’s signature.

The advice in “Your Next Steps” can help you block fraudulent information from your credit reports.

Replace government-issued IDs.

The state might flag your license number in case someone else tries to use it, or they might suggest that you apply for a replacement license.

Resolve child identity theft.

  • When requesting a credit report, ask for a search based only on your child’s Social Security number (SSN). You’ll need to do this by phone or email:
  • When you correct your child’s credit report, send each credit reporting agency the Minor’s Status Declaration [PDF] form. It provides proof that your child is a minor. Include a letter with the form that asks for all information associated with your child’s name or SSN to be removed. If you do this, you don’t have to send a “blocking” request for the child.

Resolve medical identity theft.

  • Contact each doctor, clinic, hospital, pharmacy, laboratory, and health plan where the thief may have used your information. Ask for copies of your medical records.

  • Complete the providers’ records request forms and pay any fees required to get copies of your records.

  • Check your state’s health privacy laws. Some state laws make it easier to get copies of your medical records.

Federal law gives you the right to know what’s in your medical files.

Did your provider refuse to give you copies of the records to protect the identity thief’s privacy rights? You can appeal. Contact the person listed in your provider’s Notice of Privacy Practices, the patient representative, or the ombudsman. Explain the situation and ask for your file.

If the provider refuses to provide your records within 30 days of your written request, you may complain to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

  • Write to your health care provider to report mistakes in your medical records.
  • Include a copy of the medical record showing the mistake.

  • Explain why this is a mistake, and how to correct it.

  • Include a copy of your Identity Theft Report.

  • Send the letter by certified mail, and ask for a return receipt.

Your health care provider should respond to your letter within 30 days. Ask the provider to fix the mistake and notify other health care providers who may have the same mistake in their records.

  • Send your Identity Theft Report to your health insurer’s fraud department. Tell them about any errors in your medical records.

Clear your name of criminal charges.

  • File a report about the impersonation.

  • Give copies of your fingerprints, photograph, and identifying documents.

  • Ask the law enforcement agency to:

    • compare your information to the imposter’s

    • change all records from your name to the imposter’s name (if you know it)

    • give you a “clearance letter” or “certificate of release” to declare your innocence

  • Keep the clearance letter or “certificate of release” with you at all times.

  • Write down who you contacted and when.

  • Ask the district attorney for records to help you clear your name in court records.

  • Provide proof of your identity.

  • Ask the court for a “certificate of clearance” that declares you are innocent.

  • Keep the “certificate of clearance” with you at all times.

  • Ask if your state has an “identity theft passport” (a tool you can use to resolve financial issues related to the identity theft) or some other special help for identity theft victims.

  • If you get an identity theft passport, keep it with you at all times.
  • Write to the brokers. Ask them to remove errors from your file.

Information brokers buy criminal records and sell information to employers and debt collectors.

For certain types of accounts, you might have to contact additional offices.


  • Tell them someone stole your identity.

  • Ask them to close the account.

Checking accounts

  • To get your report, contact ChexSystems at 1-800-428-9623. Or visit their website consumerdebit.com.

  • Then contact every financial institution where a new account was opened. Ask them to close the accounts.

  • Ask them to stop payment on stolen checks and close your account.

  • Ask them to report the theft to its check verification system. The check verification system will tell businesses to refuse the stolen checks.

  • Also, contact any business that took the bad check. Explain that someone stole your identity theft. Act quickly, before they start collection action against you.

You also can contact check verification companies. Report that your checks were stolen. Ask them to tell businesses to refuse the stolen checks.

Telecheck 1-800-710-9898

Certegy 1-800-437-5120

Student loans

  • Explain the situation.

  • Ask them to close the loan, and send you a letter that says you aren’t responsible for the loan.

If these steps don’t resolve your situation, contact the U.S. Department of Education Ombudsmen at 202-277-3800 or online.

Investment accounts

For more information, you can call the SEC at 1-800-732-0330.

Bankruptcy filed in your name

The U.S. Trustee Program refers cases of suspected bankruptcy fraud to the U.S. Attorneys for possible prosecution. The U.S. Trustee can’t give you legal help, so you may need to hire an attorney.

An attorney can explain to the court that the bankruptcy filing was fraudulent.

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