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    I Rebounded After Identity Theft: 5 Steps I Took To Get My Life and Money Back

    By Ryan Smith,

    15 days ago
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    Identity theft is a worry for many, and experiencing it first-hand creates ongoing effects that follow you for years — perhaps a lifetime. Going through identity theft presents the dual challenges of reclaiming your life and personal finances and getting back what you’ve lost.

    Years later, further attempts to use her personal details without consent continue to follow Cheryl Smith, a Florida-based identity theft victim, whose biggest issue came after she and her husband’s tax returns were rejected “because someone else had already filed a tax return under our social security numbers and had already received a refund.”

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    Here are the steps she took to regain control and reclaim the money thieves had siphoned from their bank account .

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    Identifying Identity Theft on Their Accounts

    Smith and her husband spent 16 months proving to the IRS that they were the rightful owners of their social security numbers. In the meantime, thieves had received a refund check and had accessed the Smiths’ bank account, siphoning out $15,000 and leaving it empty.

    Setting Up Credit Alerts and Freezes

    To prevent further damage, the Smiths enrolled for LifeLock and free credit monitoring services from their credit card issuers.

    Smith says that LifeLock “catches most but not all attempts to open a credit card in my name” and that freezing her credit with all bureaus prevents anyone from obtaining credit in her name without taking extra steps for identity verification.

    Switching Banks

    The Smiths also switched banks, because thieves accessed their accounts and attempted to make further withdrawals.

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    While the bank replaced the stolen $15,000, it wouldn’t credit the couple for late and overdraft fees they’d received when recurring bill payments tried to process. They also check their online banking accounts daily to look for issues.

    Monitoring Credit Reports

    The Smiths obtain their credit reports regularly, which you can do for free each week at annualcreditreport.com .

    Being vigilant helps find issues before they grow, according to Smith, who says she’s yet to see a copy of her credit report “that didn’t have at least one error: an account I don’t have or an address I didn’t live at.”

    Smith also recommends using a monitoring service like LifeLock, which helped the pair cancel unauthorized applications for credit in their names.

    Getting Organized While Being Proactive

    Smith now maintains a folder “full of accounts that were opened or attempted to be open in my name that I’ve had to work with LifeLock, a bank or a company to get canceled.”

    They’ve also filed police reports and notified the IRS they were victims of identity theft. The couple keeps these records, as well, and receives a one-time passcode each year from the IRS to file their taxes.

    While this seems like extra work, it provides the necessary security, given the ongoing issues the Smiths face with a common last name and living in one of the states with the greatest prevalence of identity theft.

    Smith also noted that going through identity theft isn’t a one-time experience and requires regular vigilance. Once thieves had her and her husband’s details, credit applications popped up in unexpected places. Cataloging all of this takes time, but she says that having details to reference when working with police, a bank, or a credit card company helps when trying to reclaim your identity from thieves.

    This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com : I Rebounded After Identity Theft: 5 Steps I Took To Get My Life and Money Back

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