A Guide to Overcoming Identity Theft by Brandon Bowers

Posted on February 20, 2024 by Brandon Bowers

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft continues to be one of the fastest-growing crimes in the U.S., with more than 1.1 million cases reported in 2022. The repercussions of falling victim to this type of fraud can be overwhelming, but there are proactive steps you can take to mitigate the damage and regain control of your personal information. Following is a list of some immediate actions you should take to navigate the aftermath of identity theft and minimize the damage to you.

Contact Financial Institutions

Immediately call or visit your bank to place all your accounts on high alert and cancel all debit and credit cards associated with compromised accounts. You should also contact your credit card companies, including those affiliated with airlines and retail stores, to inform them about the situation and consider issuing new account numbers.

Set Up Bank and Credit Card Alerts

Configure alerts with your banks and financial institutions to notify you when there is unusual activity in your accounts or when your credit or debit card is used without your physical presence. You may also set alerts for purchases and withdrawals above a set amount.

Request and Review Your Credit Reports

Contact the three reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, to request free copies of your credit report or visit or call (877) 322-8228. Review each report carefully to identify unauthorized or unfamiliar activity.

Remove Fraudulent Information from Credit Reports

If you detect any inaccuracies or indications of fraud on your credit reports, promptly contact the reporting agencies to dispute these matters and request they be removed. Swift action is crucial as it will take the agencies some time to investigate your dispute.

Set Up Fraud Alerts

Contact the credit reporting agencies to request a free, one-year fraud alert on your credit. This alert notifies potential lenders to take extra precautions to verify your identity before extending credit in your name. You can renew the fraud alert after the initial one-year period.

Freeze Your Credit

Contact the credit reporting bureaus or visit to freeze your credit and prevent anyone from accessing your credit or running credit checks on you without your authorization. You can unfreeze your accounts temporarily, online or by phone, by providing the agency with a personal identification number (PIN) or other information that only you would know.

Create an IRS PIN

Contact the IRS to receive an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) and prevent criminals from using your personal identifying information to commit tax fraud. Anyone who attempts to file a tax return using your information needs to enter that PIN.

Alert the FTC, SSA and Other Government Agencies

Visit to report the fraud to the FTC, which will create a paper trail of the incident and help you dispute and rectify incorrect information on your credit report. If you suspect theft or misuse of your Social Security Number, passport or driver’s license, contact the issuing agency immediately to prevent further damage to your identity.

File a Police Report

Reach out to law enforcement to report and document the incident, which can serve as a vital timeline in future legal proceedings.

Secure Accounts

Change the passwords on any compromised accounts, employing strong and unique combinations of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. For added security, implement two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) that requires you to provide two or more forms of identification to access your accounts. It is also a good practice to regularly change your passwords and implement 2FA or MFA on all your nonfinancial accounts, including those for social media, shopping, healthcare and entertainment.

 Knowing the steps to take after a breach of your personal information can help you minimize the impact of identity theft on all aspects of your personal and professional life. Swift action, thorough investigation and cautious security measures are crucial to overcoming these challenges.

About the Author: Brandon Bowers is director of Managed Cyber Security Solutions with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs, where he provides businesses, professional services firms and family offices with business continuity and recovery, cybersecurity and fully outsourced help desk services. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., office at (954) 712-7000 or