Since Halloween is coming up in just a few days, it seems fitting to talk about the various scary money situations that people find themselves in. I recently addressed tips for bankruptcy and what to do when you're laid off, but today I'm going to talk about what to do when something (or things) is stolen from you. Even if this hasn't happened to you, it's a good idea to know what to do when the time comes so you don't freeze up and act out of panic.
When your home is robbed: Once you find your house has been broken into, immediately leave your home and call 911. Stay in a safe place while you're waiting for the police to come, because you don't want to run the risk of bumping into the criminal. Wait until the police come before you take further action, which means you shouldn't search your home or touch anything before the cops come or you'll be tampering with evidence. Then, walk through your house and create a list of things that you notice missing from your home. If you have not taken photos of the items before the theft, make sure you write a detailed description of them. You will need to submit this list to the police and your homeowner's insurance. When you're reporting the crime and claiming insurance, start working on ways to make your home safer. For example, you can do things like get a good alarm system, lock up your valuables, and secure your windows and sliding doors.
When your identity is stolen: If you've been monitoring your credit report and all of a sudden you see strange activity like new credit cards being opened or if you're seeing weird charges on your credit card bills, someone may have stolen your identity. First decide whether you want to place a fraud alert or a credit freeze. With a fraud alert, the creditor will be more cautious when giving credit in your name and all you need to do is place the alert with one credit bureau, which will then notify the others. A credit freeze is the more secure option — you can't be considered for new credit until you've disabled the freeze. The latter option provides more protection, but it's also more of a hassle and you have to pay a fee. You'll have to individually freeze your credit with all three agencies.
Read on for more tips.
Get a copy of your credit report (you'll get a free one if you set a fraud alert) and check for inaccuracies. Remove them if they are fraudulent. Then, report the crime to the police and the Federal Trade Commission. Keep on monitoring your account to see if any suspicious activity happens. After you're done reporting, contact all the companies linked to the accounts that you think have been open fraudulently and start closing them. The FTC advises to send letters because it's important to have it in writing versus reporting the problem over the phone. If a bill collector contacts you regarding a fraudulent account, you need to ask for their address and send them a copy of your fraud affidavit.
When your belongings are stolen: If someone stole something of yours outside of your home, make sure the first thing you do is to report it. If someone stole your phone, call your provider; if someone stole your credit card, call your bank. This is so you won't have to deal with charges by the fraudster. File a fraud alert with credit bureaus just to make sure nobody attempts to access new credit under your name. Then, go to the police to report it as being stolen.