My identity has been stolen. What to do now? [Part 4]

Ransom for your identity
Photo by William Stiff on Unsplash

This is the last part of our series of blog posts that cover the topic of identity theft. In our previous post, we explained the key signs that would indicate you have been a victim of identity theft. We also included a simple identity theft self-assessment. In this post, we take the next step and discuss all of the actions you should take once you are sure your identity has been stolen.

Steps to Take as Soon as Possible If Your Identity Has Been Stolen

Once your identity has been stolen, you must assume that the person who stole it has access to every one of your online accounts. They will also be able to take real-life criminal actions using your identity. However, it is the online accounts which can cause the most damage, in the shortest time. So, let’s deal with these first:

  • Secure your email account. Log in, change the password, change the security questions, and make sure your mobile number is correct.
  • Login to your online banking. Check your current bank statement, and your credit card statements. Are there any suspicious transactions? If so, contact your bank immediately and have them cancel your credit/debit cards. Change your password and other security information.
  • Log in to any payment gateways you use, like PayPal or similar. Check that there are no suspicious If there are, contact support straight away. Change your password, other security data, and remove any funding sources such as credit or debit cards. You can add them back later, but for now, removing them stops anyone making payments via the gateway using your identity.
  • Log in to any online merchants that you often purchase goods from, that have your payment details stored. Change your password and security data. Remove any automated funding sources that would enable a person to make a purchase without knowing your card details.

Once you have covered these four issues, you have minimised the chance of an identity thief being able to use online transactions to commit a crime.

Later Steps to Take If Your Identity Has Been Stolen

Once you have taken the emergency procedures above, it is time to move on to the things you should do after, in order to stop an identity thief using your identity in real life to commit crimes.

  • Report the theft of your identity to the Garda. This is a criminal act that you have been the victim of. Get the Garda involved as soon as possible.
  • Inform your bank that you have been the victim of identity theft, so that they can put a more stringent level of transaction monitoring in place. Most banks will be happy to do this, as it diminishes their own risk.
  • Get hold of a copy of your current credit report. This report will help to highlight any fraudulent activity, such as taking out credit in your name.
  • Visit each website that you use regularly, change all of your passwords and update your security information. Everything from Facebook to your personal blog.
  • Start monitoring your bank and credit accounts closely, as well as online payment gateways, to ensure that no suspicious activity is still occurring.

Dealing with Ransom Emails after Identity Theft

Some cyber criminals have no intention of using your stolen identity to commit theft or fraud. Some are far more interested in blackmail. Why? Because this type of crime can be carried out without ever having to put themselves at risk. It is entirely anonymous and leaves no paper trail.

Sextortion is a common form of blackmail that identity thieves often try. It can take many forms. In its simplest form, the cybercriminal will threaten to send compromising pictures of yourself to everyone on your contact list, unless you send them a certain amount in Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency. This video report found on BBC News shows more on how it happens and what you should do.

The best way to deal with this kind of blackmail, is to contact the Garda. Often people will avoid this for fear of embarrassment, but please remember that this is a serious situation. There is likely to be an organised group of criminals behind the scenes, so the Garda will treat the case with its due seriousness and advise you on specific steps to collect evidence. However, there are a few things you can do to help yourself, while the Garda get up to speed.

  1. Change the password and security information for your email account.
  2. Stop communicating with the blackmailer – don’t reply to emails or any type of message.
  3. Capture screenshots of any chat conversations the blackmailer has with you.

It is important that you do not pay the ransom, as there have been cases in which the criminals continued to request higher amounts or simply released the threat anyway. If you are sure the blackmailer no longer has access to your email account, you can take the following steps:

  1. Consider sending an email to your contacts, informing them that you have been the victim of identity theft, and that any suspicious email they receive from you, should be ignored.
  2. Consider posting on your social networking sites that you have been the victim of identity theft, to let people know they could receive suspicious emails from you in the coming days.

What You Need to Do If Your Smartphone Has Been Stolen or Lost

A lost or stolen smartphone is one of the most dangerous events regarding identity theft. Consider all of the information that could be stored somewhere on your smartphone. Site logins, transaction histories, important files from work, and many sources of precious information. If your smartphone has been lost or stolen, take the following steps:

  1. Try to find it – Apple, Android and Windows phones can all be tracked using online tools. Methods will vary depending on which type of phone you own.
  2. Change passwords – for your main accounts such as email, online banking, and all apps that you commonly use.
  3. Contact your phone carrier – and tell them the phone is lost or stolen. In some cases, they may be able to help locate the phone, but in all cases, you can stop the phone being used to make calls.
  4. Contact any affected parties – such as your employer, whose data may have been exposed to risk due to being stored on your phone.
  5. Remote wipe – Every smartphone using Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows, can be remotely wiped. Methods will differ between phone operating systems.

Insurance against Identity Theft

Another way of protecting yourself is to hire a private insurance or protection service. Specialist companies, such as Lifelock and IDShield, can help you to monitor key warning signs of identity theft by providing automated alerts in the event of a detectable threat, and often provide financial aid to cover your expenses and losses should the worst occur.

Some offerings will be included in addition to your regular home, auto and traveller’s policies, and you may be assigned a case manager who will personally assist you with recovery and the next steps you need to take to be safe.

Not only do these services save you time and money, but they can provide you with peace of mind.

In Conclusion

Identity theft is a serious problem, and one that cannot be fixed instantly. Undoing the damage that a cybercriminal has done could take weeks or even months in the worst cases. We hope that this blog post is able to help you if you are ever to become the victim of identity theft.

If you need specific advice in a similar situation, feel free to contact us from Spector at  01 664 4190 and we’ll provide you with assistance.

Back to articles list