What to Do If You Are A Victim of Identity Theft

Last week I discussed what happened when I was a victim of credit card fraud. Unfortunately, the night before you read about my experience with credit card fraud things took a turn for the worse. 

Turns out my credit card fraud case turned into identity theft quickly. When I went online to upload my credit card fraud affidavit to my bank I decided to check my credit card activity just in case. What I found shocked me…

The Transaction That Tipped Me Off

My credit card was cancelled and a new credit card was issued. It was shipped overnight to me after I found out I was a victim. I received the card on Thursday and called to activate it via the company’s phone system.

Now that I had my new credit card I knew I had to update any automatic payments I had scheduled on that credit card. I signed in to my other accounts online to update my automatic payments with my new credit card number. I then checked my credit card activity and was blown away.

There was a multi-thousand dollar cash advance in process. It actually ended up being a balance transfer to pay off the thief’s credit card. I was livid!

I Called My Credit Card Company

I immediately called my credit card company to alert them. I asked what this cash advance was a they told me that it was a balance transfer that I had requested to pay off my credit card from another bank… WRONG!

I notified my credit card company that I’ve never had any type of account with the other bank and this was another fraudulent transaction. Luckily the person who initiated the transaction had started it just a couple hours before and the money had not transferred yet.

My credit card company was able to stop the money before it went to the fraudster’s credit card. At this point I was freaking out and knew I needed to take steps to protect myself.

What To Do If You Think You Are An Identity Theft Victim

The first thing I was instructed to do is contact the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion and Equifax and place a 90 day fraud alert on my credit report. You only have to contact one bureau and then they will alert the other two bureaus within 24 hours. I didn’t want to wait 24 hours in case the fraudster was acting quickly.

Essentially a fraud alert will alert any creditor that there has recently been fraudulent activity associated with the credit report. It instructs the creditor to contact you via a phone number you provide before granting any credit.

I called two of the bureaus to place a fraud alert and placed the third fraud alert via the bureau’s website. I learned that reporting online gives you the advantage of getting a free credit report immediately, even if you have already used your free annual credit report for that bureau.

I reviewed my credit report and luckily found no other fraudulent activity yet. I’ll have to continue monitoring my credit report going forward to ensure nothing out of the ordinary pops up.

Contact All of Your Creditors and Banks

I immediately contacted all of my other credit cards and banks as soon as I had completed placing fraud alerts with all three bureaus. Every bank and credit card company will tell you they’re constantly monitoring your account for fraud but letting them know you’ve recently been a victim will put them on high alert.

Another thing you should do is change all of your passwords and pin numbers with any bank or creditor. It can never hurt to be too careful because you have no idea what information your identity thief has.

File a Police Report

Last week I told you I didn’t file a police report for the $19.95 purchase of Proactiv. Well… things have changed. If you have been a victim of identity theft you DEFINITELY need to file a police report.

A police officer came out to my house and took down all of the information I knew at the time, which wasn’t much. He told me that since I hadn’t actually lost any money there was little chance they would look into it as we only have one officer working financial crimes. I guess that’s an effect of budget cuts.

Regardless, filing a police report allows you to show that you have taken action. Once my credit card company assigns a fraud investigator I will relay this information to the police and update my police report.

What I’ve Learned Since Thursday About My Case

Now that things have calmed down I have been able to do more investigating myself. I was able to talk to a fraud specialist at my credit card company and found out that the fraudster called my credit card company to initiate the balance transfer.

They know my full social security number, my birthday and enough about me to answer random identity verification questions without hesitating. This is pretty scary and definitely makes me a victim of identity theft.

My credit card company also has some other information that could lead to identifying the fraudster and should make this a pretty open and shut case if anyone actually investigates it.

There is some other evidence that I’ve been able to gather but I’m not going to write about it now. I don’t want to jeopardize my potential case but I’ll be sure to update you when I can.

I know what I’ve gone through is pretty crazy but there are much worse cases out there. Have you ever been a victim of identity theft beyond simple credit card fraud? Am I missing anything I should do to take preventative action?

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Report the fraud to the IRS immediately! It’s going to take time to get your PIN to file your taxes and it’s going to be a PITA.
    Also sign up for the social security administration’s website. You’ll have to monitor that to make sure people aren’t working under your SSN. Check the link I gave you last week, there are a couple other things you should do to CYA.

    • ^ THIS!!! Fraudulent tax returns are HUGE nowadays, so you’ll want to make sure they haven’t already done this.

    • You do not have to use the IRS issued PIN to file your taxes electronically. You can use your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from the previous filing year (2011). Personally, I never use the IRS PIN or use it on client returns, I always use the previous year AGI. If you are having a professional tax preparer complete and file your taxes, this is a moot point 🙂

    • Thanks again for the advice. I actually went ahead and just filed my return and had no problems! YAY!

  2. Whoa! I’m sorry Lance, but I’m so glad that you caught this early! This is one of those things that you never think will happen to you, but it happens all the time. Nice tip about receiving a free credit report by reporting the fraud online, BTW. Keep us updated!

  3. Wow, that is just crazy Lance! So glad you were able to get it caught before the transfer wen through and anything else happened. I would echo Mrs. Pop in contacting the IRS as you never know what the person will do. My best friend’s wife had something very similar done to her several years ago and it went as far as the person trying to set up bank accounts in her name.

  4. The biggest thing is to not panic. That will only exacerbate the problem as you’ll end up running around like crazy with no real plan in sight.

    Another big thing is to never let your potential vulnerability in an event like this make you fall victim to any wastes of money like identity theft insurance or credit monitoring. ID theft insurance will only help so much and the premiums make any assistance negligible monetarily speaking and credit monitoring will only catch a problem after it has happened anyway.

    Just keep your head!

    • Yup I had a couple offers for those services when I placed my fraud alert. I told them unless it was free I didn’t want it. Don’t fall for that free trial crap either.

  5. Just plain scary. Glad you keep it together and look the appropriate steps to get it taken care of. Sorry to hear about all of the trouble. Do you have any idea how they got the info?

  6. Man, sorry to hear about this, but super glad your are on top of this. I haven’t ever dealt with identity theft, but credit card has been stolen twice. Companies have been super helpful, except one $99 transaction that I had to dispute twice. Really hoping they can catch these spineless thieves!

  7. What a complete pain in the butt! I can’t stand thieves! I had someone use my credit card illegally a few years back, but thankfully Chase noticed it, cut them off immediately, and notified me.

  8. Good points! I came close once, but he was caught right away opening a credit account at a jeweler. It is a crime that seems to be happening more often with the internet.

  9. Lance,
    Oh man. Good advice that I wish you didn’t learn by experience. I hope it doesn’t end up that you know the criminal.

  10. Good points! I came close once, but the culprit was caught right away opening a credit account at a jeweler. It is a crime that seems to be happening more often with the internet. There seems to be a casualness about these kinds of crimes, but they are just like robbery.

  11. Call your insurance agent that wrote your homeowners. 99% of the homeowners policies out there these days carry some sort of identity theft coverage, usually in blocks of $25,000 or $50,000. If you end up spending any money out of pocket for this, or need legal representation, your homeowners should cover it under the policy identity theft coverage. If you don’t have identity theft coverage on your policy, first ask the agent why (it is very cheap) and then add it. 🙂

  12. Justin@TheFrugalPath says:

    We recently had a credit card that was compromised. Someone tried to purchase a cigar with it across the country. I really hope that it was just the card and not full blown identity theft. It’s a pretty scary situation. I hope that you are able to clear it up without too many more problems.

  13. My brother got hit by identity fraud a few years ago. The first he knew about it was the credit card company phoning him asking if he was doing any transactions in Russia. Then a few weeks later he was receiving mail about new bank accounts that he had opened and loans that were approved in his name.

    It is all sorted now, but it was pretty stressful for him.

  14. Too scary, Lance….This has never happened to me and I would really freak out if it ever did. I hope that you can find out HOW they got your information. I’d like to know more ways to protect myself. It’s crazy that they have all of that personal information about you (birthday, idenity verification questions, etc). Maybe it was someone from a company that you were required to give that information to over the phone? I have no clue…I hope this all works out for you, though.

  15. This is so scary, especially since it seems to happen so often lately. Great tips as to what to do if you encounter such a situation; I’m sorry you had to go through it, though!

  16. Lance sorry to hear about your identity theft situation, but thanks for turning lemons in to lemonade by helping all of us be aware!

  17. Thanks for sharing this, it’s important information that could be helpful to others who find themselves in a predicament like that in the future. Sounds like a potential nightmare, but maybe you were lucky in finding out soon enough.

    I know someone who lost her purse recently yet recovered it at a store lost and found the next day. Very lucky indeed. Yet, still important to check on all accounts and document what happened, as you never know what someone could have done even when returning an item this way.

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