My laptop was stolen and my personal financial information was stored on it. How can I protect myself against identity theft?
Your first step should be to contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies, i.e., Equifax, Experian, or Transunion, and place a fraud alert on your credit report to prevent someone from opening a new account in your name. The agency you contact will then forward your information to the other two agencies. You can also find out if your state allows you to "freeze" your credit report, which will prevent any unauthorized access to your credit information. Once you place a fraud alert on your credit report, you are entitled to a free copy of your report from each of the credit reporting agencies. Review each of your credit reports and notify the agencies of any fraudulent or suspicious activity. You should also contact any financial institutions or credit card companies with which you have accounts. Ask to have your current accounts closed and open new ones with new account numbers. If possible, you should also request that your new accounts include additional safeguards such as password protection.
Finally, if you suspect that your financial information has already been misused, you'll want to consider taking the following steps:
â€¢ Contact the appropriate financial institution and dispute any unauthorized charges or transactions as soon as possible. Generally, your liability will depend on how quickly you notify them.
â€¢ Consider filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which will entitle you to certain identity theft protections. You can go to www.ftc.gov for more information.
â€¢ File a police report with your local law enforcement agency. A police report can be helpful when filing an extended fraud alert or disputing unauthorized transactions.