According to the Oxford Dictionary the term, “Identity Theft” was coined in 1964. It would be several years before the term entered mainstream usage, and during this period, nearly 100% of criminals who were considered “Identity Thieves” accomplished their nefarious doings via the telephone.
Today, identity theft and related crimes are quite common: The Harris Poll indicated in 2018 that year, nearly 60 million Americans were affected by identity theft. The same poll showed about 17 million for the year before.
In our time, the term identity theft is used to indicate a monetarily exploitive crime in which a criminal unlawfully uses an individual’s social security number to accomplish one or several lucrative actions. Among the best known and widely-discussed are such crimes as securing a loan(s) with another person’s identity social security card number, acquiring and using a credit card the same way, etc.
Less common (though no less problematic for the affected, innocent party), are instances where the thief secures a job using a social security number, not their own.
If you, the person who is reading this, are convinced that your social security card number has been stolen and is being or has been used to exploit you financially, please read on: In the following text, I will detail for you an action plan of recovery, complete with acknowledgment of and means to counter potential pitfalls.
1. First Step: Alert Uncle Sam
The Federal Trade Commission maintains a website that is accessible at the following address: IdentityTheft.gov. You can report your loss at this site, and the FTC will impart to you their plan for a recovery process step by step. You should also be aware of possible tax difficulties which can arise from having your identity stolen, (such as the thief could use your social security number to complete your taxes and apply for the refund monies meant for you), and to make the IRS aware that your identity has been stolen, go to irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection.
2. Take a Deep Breath, Then Take Stock
Although the mere concern of your identity being stolen in no way, by itself, should be seen by you to indicate a policy of recklessness or carelessness on your part, it does no harm for you to pause for a bit and reflect on matters pertaining to personal responsibility. Under what circumstances was your card number illegally acquired? Did a pickpocket steal your wallet? (A replacement social security card in Michigan, in the event that you need the card ASAP, can be acquired at any social security office provided you can show proof of identity, immigration status, and work authorization.) If circumstances indicate any liability on your part for the loss, consider listing and addressing other areas of personal responsibility that may benefit from your attention.
3. Damage Control, Company by Company
Now you will need to contact any and all companies where you are certain that there has been an occurrence of fraud in your name. You may well wish to begin with financial institutions such as your bank(s), and you are likely to feel some needed relief from merely getting the process rolling (of stopping your being exploited financially).
Follow This Process With Each Company:
- Call the company’s fraud specialists and ask them to close or freeze all of your accounts.
- Create new versions of all of your passwords, your log-ins, and PINS for these accounts, and permanently delete or discard the old ones.
- Now, no further charges can be accrued without your knowing and consent.
- Acknowledge the Losses You Have Incurred and Strategize Repair to Them
This is a step with which you may wish to engage your attorney. A great deal of emotional toll can come with having your identity stolen and permit yourself to acknowledge that the experience has been stressful “beyond the pale.” If so doing indicates to you that pursuit of professional, emotional-psychological therapy is required for you to be able to continue necessary functioning, by all means, seek to establish and initiate this process.
If alternatively, you can accomplish adequate coping merely by striking your side-lawn pine tree with a baseball bat several times, then do that. But don’t be jocular or glib in assessing the emotional toll on you nor how to best heal it, because the theft of what was yours has cost you in terms of emotion, time, energy, equilibrium, and resources both monetary and otherwise.
With respect to financial losses, dialogue with your attorney: He or she will know, most likely, all there is to know about feasible redress either with the aid of Uncle Sam, local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, or other businesses, agencies, or organizations.
4. Alert the Business/Financial Community and Acquire a Detailed Report
There are three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax), and at this point, you ought to contact any one of these and place a one-year fraud alert. Whichever bureau you choose to contact regarding this matter will be compelled by law to inform the other two. In general (but meaningful) terms, placing a one-year fraud alert in this fashion will substantially impede any further criminal efforts to exploit your credit and your social security card number.
Also, as part of this step, request a free credit report from any one of the bureaus, as mentioned above. When you get the news, could you review it carefully? Are there any purchases or charges you do not recognize or recall? If there are, it is likely wise to contact the FTC again and the police, and report the newly identified theft.
5. Nullify the Burden of Bogus Charges
Go through all written records of your accounts and identify any and all charges you are sure were never of your making. Contact the fraud specialists of the associated company(s) and explain what has happened. Ask the related company to remove the fraudulent charges and also to mail you a letter indicating that they have been made aware of the fraud perpetrated against you and have therefore removed related expenses from your account with them.
Keep all such letters for ongoing or future potential applicability.
6. Put the Brakes on Exploitation of Your Social Security Card
The process for accomplishing this is relatively simple but can be dynamically significant. Contact your local office or apply for a replacement social security card in Michigan online. Find out more here.
If you believe someone is misusing your Social Security card number: Type the following address in your web browser: socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Establish an account for yourself and review all relevant social security work therein. If you find “red flags” or outright errors, contact Social Security and explain things and ask for assistance. You can do all this at your local Social Security Office.
Summing It Up: The Sky Didn’t Fall, After All
Since the dawn of civilization, crime has been a high-dollar industry that attracts many practitioners. Financial crime in our era is both facilitated and aided in its control of the internet. One ought to hardly esteem themselves “less an adult” if they have been made a victim of identity theft.