The 13 Watchdog team is focusing on the issue of identity theft.
As of 2016, 41 million American adults had their identities stolen, according to Bankrate.com. Close to 50 million people know somebody who had their identity stolen.
We started the conversation on social media, last month, highlighting how I had my identity stolen by somebody who bought a $40,000 boat on my credit.
My case is similar to others in that there was nothing I could do to prevent being a victim. Here are some ways to try to fight back a bit.
1. Secure your e-mails and don't give information out to anybody who asks for it. It's better to make the contact yourself to provide the information to somebody else.
2. Sign up for credit monitoring.
3. Get account alerts for all your accounts.
4. Change passwords frequently. Make the passwords as long as possible.
Michigan consistently ranks near the top in the country for identity theft cases. There are lots of victims and also lots of people being aggressive about reporting it which elevates the numbers.
Here are the top five things I did immediately after I knew I was a victim of identity theft.
1. Pull everything!
Pull your credit reports, financial statements and bank account information and highlight all items that are not correct. This will help to show you the depth of the assault on your credit.
2. Contact the financial institution involved in the fraudulent transaction(s).
They need to know immediately that what's been done was a criminal act. In my experience, they handled it professionally and took me seriously. I was very clear with them I did not complete this transaction and had nothing to do with it. I told them I would like them to investigate what happened so it didn't happen again to somebody else.
3. Put a fraud alert or freeze on your credit reports
I did this with all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Initial fraud alerts are free and will be in place for at least 90 days. I doubled down and subscribed to constant monitoring from Equifax to make sure once anything changed on my credit report, I would be alerted immediately.
Here are the links:
4. File complaint with the federal government
One of the easiest and most official things to do is to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. I provided them all the information and that allowed me to spit out a detailed report I could use to provide the financial institutions and the police a detailed explanation of what happened.
Get started at: https://www.identitytheft.gov/
5. File a police report
In my identity theft case, the investigating agency was going to be in the state of Alabama. But I live in Michigan. I called the policy agency in Alabama where the boat was purchased to alert them to the case and they wanted me to go to my local police department to file a police report. Once your local police department finishes the report, it's up to them to send it to the agency that can handle the investigation. Make sure that gets done or you can get your own copy of the police report to send it to the investigating agency.
--Check with the IRS or Social Security Administration to make sure somebody hasn't filed a tax return or claim in your name and social security number.
--Make sure you are getting your U.S. Mail. Contact the Post office if you feel you are missing information.
--Order credit monitoring for an extended time to make sure no new accounts are opened in your name