In the wake of yet another major online security breach, millions of individuals worldwide are left with the daunting task of safely restoring stolen identities. Knowing what to report and how to do it can be a tricky process to navigate.
University of Alabama at Birmingham information security expert Gary Warner believes all consumers can benefit from learning the basics of how to report suspected identity theft. Although a report published by the Federal Trade Commission shows that most Alabama cities reported a decrease in identity-theft claims in 2013, Warner says that may not necessarily be good news for consumers in our state.
Warner, director of research in computer forensics at UAB, says a decrease in claims also could point to a lack of knowledge of the reporting process by consumers. Consumers may not be filing claims simply because they are unaware of what to do when they suspect identity theft.
In addition, this decrease in claims is not representative of all Alabama metropolitan areas. Montgomery is ranked near the top of the list of metropolitan areas reporting identity theft in 2013, coming in at No. 5. The Columbus, Ga., Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes one county in Alabama, is ranked No. 2, rising 13 spots from 2012.
Warner says that that consumers can help themselves and others by being proactive about reporting suspected cases of identity theft and educating themselves about the process.
“You will want to call your local police to let them know about the crimes against you,” Warner said. “If someone has stolen your identity or has scammed you, it’s likely they are targeting others as well.”
Beyond notifying the police, there are a number of steps that can be taken to combat suspected identity theft:
- Notify a credit-reporting company and request a fraud alert on your credit report. This will help make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name.
- Order your credit reports so that you can monitor any fraudulent charges or inquiries made in your name.
- Create an identity-theft report by filing a complaint with the FTC and printing the completed report, the identity-theft affidavit, to use in filing a police report.
- Order a credit freeze on your credit file, which would prohibit anyone from opening new accounts, applying for credit or anything else that requires your credit report.
- Report the loss or theft of a credit, ATM or debit card immediately to limit your liability for unauthorized charges.
- Begin repairing your credit by reporting any errors on your credit report with the credit reporting company and the fraud department of each business.
Additional information about reporting identity theft can be accessed at www.consumer.ftc.gov.