What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

Published by John Holmes at August 12, 2016

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Every year, millions of people throughout the U.S. fall victim to identity theft, a crime that can turn your financial world upside down. Research shows that, in 2015, 13.1 million victims lost $15 billion to identity thieves. That represents significant growth from 2014’s figure of 12.7 million. Identity theft is on the rise – and everyone needs to be on guard.

In 2014, about 85% of U.S. residents took action to prevent identity theft, such as:

  • Reviewing credit reports for unusual activity or inaccurate information;
  • Shredding or burning documents with sensitive personal information;
  • Changing account passwords for banks, credit cards, and mortgage.

Despite this, millions of people still get blindsided by identity theft – 45% of victims didn’t discover it until contacted by their financial institution or the IRS. Only 18% detected the signs themselves by reviewing credit reports.

If Someone Files a Tax Return in Your Name, Don’t Wait for the IRS

One of the most common – and most devastating – forms of identity theft comes when someone files for a tax refund in your name. Only 3% of all Georgia taxpayers will experience identity theft related to income tax filings. Not only can this cost thousands of dollars, but it can also go undetected for months or years if you didn’t realize that someone filed for a refund using your identity.

The IRS is obligated to help when a fraudulent return is discovered, but it’s often not enough.

For 60% of those whose information is used to generate a false tax return, it takes the IRS six months to a year to resolve the issue. In 20% of cases it takes over one year to resolve the issue.

Identity Theft Can Damage Your Finances for Years

Even when the IRS is not involved, identity theft can have many other major consequences:

  • Damage to the victim’s credit rating that may take years to fully repair;
  • Problems planning for major purchases such as a new house or vehicle;
  • Difficulties getting credit and potential closure of existing credit lines;
  • Aggressive bill collection activity related to any fraudulent purchases;
  • Stonewalling and red tape as you try to address and resolve the issue.

Being victimized by identity theft can profoundly impact your financial life. Although it is true that victims’ liability for fraudulent transactions is limited, proving you are not the responsible party takes tremendous effort. Unless action is taken quickly, fraudulent charges can continue to emerge for many years after the initial identity theft.

In effect, identity theft can make you feel as if you are a completely different person … one who does not enjoy the benefits of the sound financial foundation you’ve carefully built for yourself.

To limit the damage from identity theft, you should seek expert help right away. Contact us for support at (770) 216-2226.

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