ID fraud occurs quickly and almost always without warning. Recovery can take months under normal circumstances. Therefore, it is important to know what it takes to speed up the process.
If your identity has been stolen and your financial life has been severely impacted, there are five steps you should take to counteract the event.
The long-term effects of identity theft
Identity theft isn’t a flash-in-the-pan event that you forget after a few months. Its effects can last months, if not years, and cast a huge shadow over your life.
Identity theft has a psychological aspect that can take its toll and make you feel at odds with everything you previously took for granted. When criminals become victims in this way, it can lead to feelings of fear and violation. Sleep could also be affected ̵
Financial security fears, a feeling of powerlessness, and feelings of suicide are also common among victims of identity theft.
Of course, identity theft also has a financial impact on victims. You will almost certainly be out of money for a while. When you borrow from family and friends, sell possessions to pay for identity theft, and even take out payday loans, you seldom feel better. The added stress of renting can cause further psychological stress.
This can also lead to physical illness. Have victims of identity theft reported everything from difficulty breathing, increased blood pressure and palpitations to fatigue, muscle pain and nausea. Then there is the problem of anger (identifying a cause; over-analyzing events) and even grief (loss of financial security, confidence and aspirations).
A timeline for identity theft recovery
Identity theft can rarely be resolved quickly. This largely depends on the type of theft you have experienced.
- Credit card fraud: The time it takes to detect and report the fraud is as long as it is in most cases. If you’ve regularly checked your credit card statements or set up notifications on your account, it shouldn’t take more than a month. Credit card companies take over the stolen credit.
- Complete identity theft: If accounts have been opened on your behalf, recovery may take months. It takes time to contest fraudulent bank accounts, loans, and other identity theft. Proof is required that you have not set up the accounts. If, as in some cases, there is also a tax debt or other crime committed on your behalf, it can take years to repair the damage.
Unless you’re lucky enough to spot identity theft early on, you will likely spend at least a year piecing together the effects of identity theft.
How to Recover from Identity Theft
So how can you recover from identity theft and minimize the psychological impact?
1. Contact the fraud departments of the affected accounts
Once fraud is discovered and it is clear that your identity has been stolen, it is important that you report the fraud. Talk to the fraud departments of the affected banks and credit card companies. If the scam was car or other type of financing, talk to them too.
You should also report the theft to your local police. All of these things should be done within a day of the fraud being discovered.
2. Review your statements and records
You need to know all about your financial activity for the duration (and for some time before) the fraud. This means that you need to carefully review your bills and financial records. Also request explanations that have not been sent to you.
Try to cover everything from banks, credit companies, and credit cards to online stores, PayPal accounts, and everything.
3. Disclose your movements during the scam
If it is discovered when the scam took place, it is important that you take steps to record your activity and prove that you did not spend the money. Unfortunately, although fraud is widespread, it is still important that victims prove their innocence.
Use Google Maps to keep track of your activity. Look for old receipts to prove where you were and possibly your employer’s information that shows you were at work when a loan was taken out at a bank branch.
4. Get legal advice from an identity theft specialist
With as much supporting data as possible, it is wise to contact an attorney. Legal advice is important at this stage as your bank will be interested in you as part of their fraud investigation.
Don’t just call your usual family lawyer, however. Instead, find someone who knows about identity theft and subsequent fraud. You can deal with your bank and any federal contact and thus help reduce personal stress.
5. Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
You can get free help from ITRCwho can tell you almost everything you need to know about identity theft. They provide a help service and detailed steps on what to do in the event of ID fraud. You will find information on various scams that will help you determine exactly what led to the theft of your ID.
In the meantime, the website also includes various resources, facts, figures and a regular newsletter.
Affected by Identity Theft in the UK? Contact the Action Fraud Team.
Prevent future identity theft
You have overcome identity theft. You probably don’t want to go over it all again. Take steps to secure your accounts to avoid repeating the months of restoring your identity, finances, and possibly even your sanity.
Stop clicking links in unsolicited emails from your bank, credit company, PayPal, Facebook, etc. Learn how to spot fake emails, change all your passwords, take stricter security measures (two-factor authentication, at (e.g. a code is sent to your phone or email when you try to log into a bank account online) and remain vigilant of the risks. Know and understand how it happened the first time to reduce the chance of recurrence.