What Do You Do: Recovering from identity theft

Warning: You may already be a victim
Posted at 6:15 AM, Dec 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-21 07:06:55-05

Identity theft is on the rise. A study earlier this year ranked Michigan among the top-10 most vulnerable states to identity theft, but the reality is everyone is at-risk.

It’s estimated that 9 million people have their identity stolen each year — that equates to roughly 1,000 per hour, but 2016 appears to have been a banner year for thieves. Javelin Strategy and Research reported that 15.4 million consumers were hit in 2016 — that’d be a huge jump from previous years.

“Yesterday we were notified of yet another merchant that go $1500 of hits within an hour of fraud on people’s accounts,” said Carma Peters, the President and CEO of Michigan Legacy Credit Union.

Peters said it’s a frustrating situation, but banks and credit unions see issues daily. In the long-term her company is working with state legislators to pass laws that allow them more freedom to alert consumers of fraud attempts, but in the short term she said it’s important that people police their accounts.


It’s important to understand that there are a number of types of identity theft including child ID theft, tax ID theft, medical ID theft and senior ID theft.

Regardless of the type of theft, it’s generally done for financial gain. The U.S. government has a laundry list of security suggestions that should keep you more safe.

  • Secure your social security number. Don’t carry your social security card in a wallet, and make sure you don’t write the number down.
  • Don’t give out personal information unless there is a reasonable reasons to do so, especially if it’s unsolicited. This includes online, over the phone and in-person.
  • Contact one of the three credit reporting agencies to request a freeze to your credit report. You can’t freeze your score, but you can freeze your credit report altogether which makes it much more difficult to open an account. This also means you’ll need to game plan to unfreeze the account if you plan a major purchase, but it’s a major step that can save you in the long-run.
  • Collect your mail. It’s easy to forget about mail when you’re leaving town for a few days, but it’s an easy “in” for thieves to track down valuable information. This also means you need to make it a regular routine to pickup your mail daily.

There’s a number of other steps including shredding your receipts before tossing them out, reviewing your bank account statements and making sure that you create complex passwords. You can learn more tips online, here.


It’s important to understand thieves want your personal information so that they can drain your bank account, but they’ll go one step further.

Thieves don’t need to worry about long-term finances so they aim to open new credit cards, utility accounts or even gain access to your health insurance to squeeze as much money out of your personal information as they can. An identity thief can even file a tax return in your name and direct the money to their own account.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is closely involved in identity theft, and offers he following clues that someone has stolen your information:

  • You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
  • You don’t get your bills or other mail.
  • Merchants refuse your checks.
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
  • Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
  • A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
  • You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.


If you believe your identity has been stolen it’s not a time to panic, it’s a time to act.

The first step you make should be to call the companies where you know fraud has already occurred. You need to explain that someone has stolen your identity and ask to close or freeze the affected accounts — this ensures no further charges can be made on those accounts.

The next step is to contact a major credit reporting agency. There are three to choose from, and once you report the fraud to one company they will immediately notify the other two for you.

Experian: 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Equifax: 1-888-766-0008

You should also follow the credit agency report with a report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

To report a stolen identity to the FTC you can visit or call 1-877-438-4338.

The last step you should take, in the short term, is to file a police report with your local police department.

It’s a lot to sift through, but unfortunately the journey isn’t over. Credit recovery can take a long time, but the FTC has helpful recommendations on the steps to take. You can find there, here.