Identity theft can be devastating, leading to everything from financial losses and ruined credit ratings to endless bureaucratic issues. And it’s more common than you think – in 2017 alone, reports found that 16.7 million Americans became victims of identity fraud. Even more concerning is that seniors are especially vulnerable to this type of fraud, with criminals taking around $36 billion from senior victims each year. Here’s some important information on what to do if you become a victim of identity theft, from your elder law attorney New Jersey.
Step One: Notify Your Financial Institution
Your bank needs to be notified of fraudulent transactions on your credit, debit card or bank accounts as soon as possible. This will help the bank put a stop to the transaction and even recover your lost funds. Keep a record of the banks that you notified, when you spoke to them and who you spoke to, and follow up with them until the issue is solved.
Your bank will also be able to close the account/issue new cards/transfer your account so that your money will be safe from further fraudulent activity.
Step Two: Notify Credit Reporting Bureaus
Place a fraud alert with credit reporting bureaus if you suspect your identity has been stolen or if a data breach has occurred at an organization where your financial or social security details are kept. This will make it more difficult for thieves to use your details to open accounts. These bureaus include Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It is important to note that placing a fraud alert on your account is free and that it will last one year from activation, so mark your calendar.
Step Three: Notify Government Agencies
If your social security information has been stolen, notify the Social Security Administration by calling in as soon as you can. If your driver’s license has been stolen (even if you don’t drive), let the Department of Motor vehicles know.
Step Four: Make a Police Report
Although the police may not always have the resources to follow up on identity theft issues, it is important to file an official report with them as financial institutions will often request proof of a police report.
Preventing Identity Theft
Of course, it’s important to take a proactive role in protecting your or your senior loved one’s identity. Monitor your credit report once per year or freeze your credit records until you need to access them. Go through your banking and credit card statements each month and look for suspicious or reoccurring charges that you don’t recognize. Don’t leave documentation with sensitive information lying around the house – lock it in a desk or filing cabinet and shred it before disposing of it. And, of course, do not ever give out banking details or social security information over the phone, online or in person unless you have verified that you are dealing with an authorized representative of a specific organization that requires this information.
Need Legal Assistance for Elder Law Issues? Speak to a Compassionate Elder Law Attorney in New Jersey
Experienced in elder law, compassionate and committed to his clients, you’ll receive the highest quality legal expertise and guidance you need from Frank R. Campisano. In addition to Medicaid assistance and Medicaid planning, you can also prepare additional estate planning documents, such as your Last Will and Testament, Healthcare Proxy/Medical Directive, Power of Attorney documents and trusts. For more compassionate legal guidance and a free consultation, please contact us or visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/