Financial Advice

Prioritize Your Security


What to Do If You Suspect You're a Victim of Fraud


Fraud and identity theft crimes are on the rise. In the recent past, hackers have made headlines by breaking into major retailer systems and in some cases, stealing customer data. Hackers have also targeted banks, lending institutions, and investing firms. Even federal government computers have been hacked, compromising the data of millions of current and former government employees.

Essentially, if you don’t watch your data, your bank accounts, and your credit card accounts closely, you could be a potential victim of fraud and not even know it. Hopefully, it will never happen to you, but if you suspect you’re a victim of fraud, here’s a list of five action items you can take to recover as quickly as possible.

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  1. Check all your accounts and information — Once you’ve found evidence of fraud on one of your accounts, you need to check over your other accounts thoroughly as well. This will help you get a better handle on the situation, including exactly what type of identifying information has been compromised. From debit and credit monitoring to identifying suspicious deposit activity, a diligent financial institution will work hard every day to protect your accounts and private data. There is however no better defense against fraud than diligent review of one’s own accounts.
  2. File an identity theft report — All cases of identity theft must be reported to local police authorities and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They can help you prove to banks and creditors that your identity has been stolen. You should also put a fraud alert on your account with all three major credit reporting agencies.* This will make it harder for criminals to access your credit accounts if they haven’t already. Even if you are uncertain, it is best to report identity theft, so the incident can be investigated. Visit the FTC Identity Theft page for more information about how to prevent identity theft before it happens.
  3. Contact your bank and all creditors — Even if it does not appear that all of your accounts have been hacked, you should contact all of your creditors and banking institutions immediately, including any third-party locations where your mortgage or auto loans are held. Every institution that holds your financial information should be contacted as soon as possible and advised that your identity has been potentially compromised. This should put them on alert to watch your accounts more closely and to put extra verifications in place to protect you in the future.
  4. Change the passwords on all your accounts — When you contact your bank and creditors, they’ll likely suggest that you change all of your passwords. And even if they don’t, you should consider updating them anyway. Changing passwords can help prevent hackers from obtaining access to more of your information. Remember to make passwords as complicated as possible, using upper and lowercase letters along with numbers and symbols.
  5. Request new cards and account numbers, and freeze your accounts — Most banks and creditors will also issue new credit and debit cards with different account numbers. They’ll also put a freeze on your old accounts and watch them closely for continued attempts to compromise your account. Sometimes companies will issue their customers new cards and account numbers if they believe their systems have been hacked, even if you haven’t seen any unauthorized activity on your account.

Ultimately, having your identity stolen and your financial information compromised is a scary situation, one that could take many months and a lot of energy to resolve. But if you find yourself facing the possibility of fraud or identity theft, there are steps you can take to stay secure.

* Equifax (800) 685-1111, Experian (888) 397-3742, and TransUnion (800) 916-8800