Quora Question: My ID and Computer Were Stolen. How Can I Prevent Identity Theft?

Protecting yourself from identity theft
Mal Langsdon/Reuters

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Answer from Jon Mixon, semi-pro security expert:

If someone is planning on using your identity for theft, there is nothing that you can do to prevent it.

You can, however, mitigate it by taking several steps:

  1. File a police report - In the report, detail all of the items which were taken, no matter how insignificant you think that they are.
  2. Contact all of your credit issuers and your bank and have your cards canceled - The sooner you do this, the better. Credit card companies legally can only hold you responsible for the first $50 in charges (almost all of them waive the charges) and your bank has to replace any fraudulent withdrawals made from your account as long as you report the theft within 60 days.
  3. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports - This will be a huge pain in the ass for as long as you have it on them; but it will prevent people from easily receiving credit using your identity.
  4. Contact the local library if you have a card and tell them that you have lost your card - Many people forget this and it's a bad idea to do so because, 1) A crook can check out numerous new and expensive books and videos on your account and sell them; 2) The crook can have the library give out a copy of the form that you completed to obtain your card. That document has personal information on it which may not have been in your wallet.
  5. Check your driving record with your state licensing agency - The crook may attempt to pass himself off as you during traffic stops and that could lead to your being fined or arrested for outstanding traffic violations. Also, you might wish to check to see if any titles were issued to you for any vehicles that you may own or not own, as crooks can use your ID to get a new title for your vehicle and either get a loan against it or steal it later and then sell it.
  6. Contact your medical insurer - A crook can use your medical insurance card to charge health care and dental work and to obtain prescription medicines (especially painkillers) to sell.
  7. Check your cell provider and see if additional phones or mobile devices have been issued in your name - A crook could obtain numerous new phones on your account and then sell them at a profit. Or use them until caught.
  8. Check your state's corporation bureau/Secretary of State - A crook (or whoever he sells your identity papers to) could start a business using your information. This could put you thousands of dollars in debt (or more) and result in numerous agencies looking for you (actually the crook pretending to be you) for a wide variety of charges.
  9. Keep a copy of your police report with you at all times - While the police have grown used to ID fraud, some may still detain or arrest you if you are pulled over. Having a copy of the report will make things far less difficult if you are stopped or detained.
  10. Expect the unexpected - There many ways that your ID can be misused by a skilled ID thief. From buying aircraft and boats on your credit, to purchasing firearms, to obtaining Internet service in your name and then using it for fraud or for downloading child pornography: If your identity is indeed compromised, you should be ready for whatever might happen.

Good Luck.

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Quora Question: My ID and Computer Were Stolen. How Can I Prevent Identity Theft? | U.S.