December 20, 2023

Your identity has been stolen: Here’s what to do

Your identity has been stolen: Here’s what to do

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal or financial information, generally with the intent to sell it on the dark web or use it to commit identity fraud. Identity thieves may empty your bank accounts, apply for loans and credit in your name, receive medical treatment under your insurance, or even commit crimes using your identity. These actions can cause serious financial, legal, and psychological impacts that may be difficult to recover from.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reclaim your identity and be reimbursed for your losses, but it’s crucial to act quickly because the process can be extensive, and immediate action improves your chances of minimizing the damage and fully restoring your identity, credit, and peace of mind.

How should you respond to the theft of your identity? Keep reading to learn about the signs of identity theft, what to do if you become a victim, and how to stay safe in the future with the help of Robokiller.

How to tell if someone is using your identity

Identity thieves are typically after your money, but they may use your identity in various ways. The sooner you recognize the warning signs of identity theft, the sooner you can take action.

Common warning signs

If you notice any of these warning signs, someone may be using your identity:

  • New accounts created in your name: If there are new accounts in your name that you didn’t create or authorize, an identity thief may have opened them using your personal information.
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) codes you didn’t request: If you receive a 2FA code you didn’t request, someone is trying to access your accounts and may already have your login credentials.
  • Hard credit inquiries: A hard inquiry (or “hard pull”) happens when a lender checks your credit report in response to an application. If your credit report shows hard inquiries that you didn’t authorize, an identity thief may be applying for new credit in your name.
  • Mobile alerts: If you have enrolled in mobile notifications with a financial institution or payment platform and receive a fraud alert, someone may be using or attempting to use your accounts. However, be sure to watch out for scam texts posing as legitimate fraud alerts.
  • Declining credit score: The actions of an identity thief (like opening new accounts, applying for loans, and failing to pay back debts) can negatively impact your credit score. If your score has declined for seemingly no reason, a criminal may be using your identity.
  • Arrest or summons: An identity thief might use stolen personal information like your name, Social Security number, or driver’s license when committing crimes. If you’re unexpectedly arrested or receive a court summons, it could be due to the transgressions of a criminal using your identity.

Immediate actions following identity theft

It’s often difficult to detect identity theft right away, and the longer the criminal is allowed to use your information, the more severe the consequences may be. It’s vital to take action as soon as you realize (or suspect) you’ve become a victim of identity theft.

Securing your accounts

If you notice suspicious activity or unauthorized use of your financial accounts, contact your financial institutions right away. They can close your compromised accounts or cards and set you up with new ones. Use different login credentials for new accounts, and change your existing usernames, passwords, and PIN codes for all of your online accounts. It can be challenging to verify the full scope of what’s been stolen, so it’s best to change your information across the board.

Enrolling in mobile alerts

Banks, credit card companies, and payment platforms such as PayPal and Venmo typically offer fraud protection services like mobile alerts. Registering for mobile alerts allows you to receive real-time account updates that may notify you about suspicious or fraudulent activity as it happens, giving you the opportunity to quickly take action. Take these alerts seriously, but be careful; as mentioned above, scammers often send fake mobile alerts to steal your information.

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Reporting identity theft

Knowing how to report identity theft quickly is pivotal to making a full recovery, and there are several agencies you should contact.

Contacting law enforcement and financial institutions

If you reach out promptly, your local law enforcement agency and financial institutions may help you mitigate damages from identity theft, remove fraudulent information from your credit file, and recover your losses.

  • Notify local law enforcement. File a police report as soon as possible after realizing you’ve become a victim of identity theft. A police report may be necessary at various stages throughout your identity theft investigation and recovery, including in the reimbursement of fraudulent charges. In some cases, you may need to be fingerprinted to help verify your identity.
  • Alert your financial institutions. Close compromised accounts and cards with your bank, credit card company, or other financial institution. Register for any optional fraud services your financial institutions might offer, like mobile alerts or credit monitoring.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC can help you create a personalized identity theft recovery plan based on your specific case. Report fraud and identity theft online or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).

Notifying the major credit bureaus

Credit bureaus are responsible for compiling your credit report, which lenders can purchase and review before deciding whether or not to accept your application for credit. Identity theft can tarnish your reputation as a borrower and cause an inaccurate report, so you should contact the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to place a fraud alert and freeze your file. This prevents identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name.

Visit the three major credit reporting agencies online or call them at the phone numbers listed below to request a fraud alert and credit freeze.

Verifying and proving identity theft

If you’ve noticed a red flag and suspect you might be a victim of identity theft, investigate immediately. You may need to prove that your identity was stolen in order to reverse charges (financial or criminal), restore your credit, and reclaim your identity.

  • Gather identifying documents like your driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, and birth certificate.
  • Take screenshots of any phishing emails, smishing texts, or other fraud attempts that may have led to your identity being compromised.
  • Keep records of the steps you take and people you speak with as you report the crime and work to recover your identity.
  • Create an Identity Theft Report by filing an Identity Theft Affidavit with the FTC and a police report with local law enforcement.

Controlling the damage and safeguarding your future

Identity theft is a serious crime that can cause lasting consequences, but with the right identity fraud protection plan, you can stop the damage from spreading and safeguard your future.

How long does it take to recover from identity theft?

Identity theft recovery is generally thought to take about 200 hours over the course of six months, but the actual time frame varies by case. Recovery time depends on the type(s) of identity fraud committed with the stolen information, the extent of the illegal activity, and how long it goes on before it’s discovered. If the thief is especially cunning, they may misuse your identity for years.

Unfortunately, the extensive process of recovering from identity theft might keep you from focusing on your career, causing you to lose wages or even your job. This compounds the problem and creates additional financial and psychological stress. However, by following the right steps and knowing how to recover from identity theft as efficiently as possible, you can prevent it from disrupting your life any further.

Monitoring financial statements and credit reports

Regularly checking your bank and credit card statements can help you catch unauthorized charges, and monitoring your credit reports can alert you to fraudulent use of your credit. A soft credit inquiry (or a “soft pull”) does not impact your credit, so you can routinely check your credit report for suspicious activity without the fear of lowering your score. This type of proactive monitoring allows you to take action quickly and prevent further damage due to identity theft.

Updating security for personal information and accounts

Securing your personal information and accounts is critical to avoiding additional cases of identity theft in the future.

  • Change your login credentials. Use strong, complicated passwords that include letters, numbers, and symbols, and change them on a regular basis. Changing your login information not only makes it difficult for criminals to get into your accounts — it may also remove those who have already gained access.
  • Use reputable antivirus software and update your operating system. Install trustworthy anti-malware and antivirus software to protect your devices from being compromised. Update your operating systems whenever new ones become available, as they may come with improved security features.
  • Remove your information from the web. Remove sensitive information from your social media and dating profiles, take contact details off of your public resume, and use a professional service like Robokiller to protect your personal data from cybercriminals.
  • Download a reliable scam blocker. Many identity theft cases start by phishing and smishing scams. Robokiller is a comprehensive scam blocker that virtually eliminates dangerous phone fraud like scam calls and scam texts.

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Restoring security and peace of mind

By quickly recognizing the signs of fraud, closing compromised accounts, and contacting the FTC and major credit bureaus, you can begin to recover from identity theft and regain your security. With the help of an award-winning scam-blocking app like Robokiller, you can add an important layer of defense that blocks identity thieves and other fraudsters from reaching you.

Robokiller prevents 99% of dangerous spam calls and scam texts from getting through to your phone, leaving scammers unable to target you with their ploys. Our unique algorithm, customizable features, and active user feedback have helped us prevent $740 million in consumer losses to phone scams to date.

Protecting your identity requires ongoing vigilance and proactive measures. Secure your privacy, identity, and peace of mind when you sign up for your free 7-day trial of Robokiller.


What is the first thing I should do when I realize my identity has been stolen?

As soon as you find out your identity has been stolen, alert the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and place a fraud alert on your credit report. You should also close any compromised accounts or cards, report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and file a police report with your local law enforcement agency.

Who should I report identity theft to?

If you’ve become a victim of identity theft, report the crime to the police, the FTC, the three major credit reporting agencies, and any financial institutions you use.

How can I limit the damage after identity theft?

Many victims are unsure of what to do about identity theft, but there are ways to minimize the damage and regain stability. Start by requesting a fraud alert and credit freeze from the major credit bureaus, closing compromised bank accounts and credit cards, and changing your login credentials for all of your online accounts.

How long does it take to recover from identity theft?

Although the general estimation of an identity theft recovery timeline is about 200 hours of work over six months, the actual amount of time can vary significantly by case. Factors that impact your recovery timeline include the types of identity fraud committed, the amount of fraudulent activity engaged in by the criminal, and the length of time the thief has been using your identity.

Is there legal protection available for victims of identity theft?

Victims of identity theft are extended certain legal protections, such as the right to sue for damages and the eligibility for restitution, among many others. As an identity theft victim, you also have the right to create an identity theft report, place a fraud alert on your credit report, and dispute fraudulent charges.

How can I prevent identity theft from happening again?

You can prevent additional cases of identity theft by changing your login credentials, monitoring your financial and credit reports, and using Robokiller to help protect your personal data online.

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