Identity Theft: How to tell and what to do

identity theft

Identity thieves are a resourceful bunch, and they use a variety of methods to get and use your personal information. 

They’ll do anything from rummage through your garbage or the trash from businesses to pretending to work for legitimate companies or agencies to get you to divulge personal information.  They might use email, phone calls or even personal visits to get you to reveal information.

Once they have your info, identity thieves can quickly drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new credit or utility accounts and run up other expenses in your name.  The could file a medical insurance claim against your insurance, file a tax return in your name and get the refund or even give your name to police if they get arrested.

So, how can you tell if your identity has been stolen?

• you see unexplained withdrawals from your bank account

• you don’t get your bills or other mail

• merchants refuse your checks

• debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours

• you find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report

• medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use

• your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit

• the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notifies you that more than 1 tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for

• you get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account

• you are arrested for a crime someone else allegedly committed in your name

If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft:

Contact credit reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit file.  Contact Equifax at 1-800-525-6285; Experian at 1-888-397-3742 and TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289.  An initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for 90 days. You can renew it after 90 days.

Consider requesting a credit freeze.  That would stop potential creditors from getting your credit report, which would make it more difficult for an identity thief to open new accounts in your name.  In some states this is free, and in others you may have to pay a fee of around $10.  You can do this through the credit reporting companies listed above.

Order your free credit reports from each of the three credit reporting companies listed above.

If you know which of your accounts have been accessed, contact the related business.

Create an identity theft report.  You can use this report to deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors and businesses that opened accounts in your name.  To create the report you must submit a complaint about the theft to the FTC so you can get an identity theft affidavit.  File a police report about the identity theft.  Copies of those two documents are submitted to credit reporting companies and debt collectors as an identity theft report. 

The identity theft report will let you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report; stop a company from collecting debts that are the result of identity theft; place an extended fraud alert that stays on your credit file for 7 years.  about the accounts an identity thief opened in your name.  To create the report you must submit a complaint about the theft to the FTC.  File a police report about the identity theft.  Copies of those two documents are submitted to credit reporting companies and debt collectors as an identity theft report. 

Related:  More stories of identity theft

Read:  How Identity Theft Happens


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