Identity theft can result in fraudulent tax refunds, credit charges, utility accounts, health insurance use, bank account depletion, and can even add criminal activity to innocent people’s records. In this post we want to help you to identify warning signs of identity theft and what to do if you fall victim to protect yourself and get your life back on track.
Warning Signs of Identity Theft1
• Unexplained withdrawals or charges to bank accounts and credit cards
• Bills or other mail stops being delivered to you
• Your checks are refused from merchants
• Contact with debt collectors for debt that is not yours
• Accounts or charges on your credit card statement that are not yours
• Medical bills for services or treatment you did not have
• Refused medical claims due to reaching medical benefit limits you never accessed
• Medical records showing a condition you do not have
• IRS alerts you of a second tax return filed in your name or income from an employer you never worked for
• A company you do business and store personal information with alerts you to a data breach
12 Steps to Take If You Fall Victim2
1. Contact Bank or Creditors Affected – If any financial accounts have been compromised it is imperative that they be shut down immediately to avoid costly fraudulent action.
2. Add a Fraud Alert to Your Credit Report – A fraud alert with one credit reporting agency will last up to 90 days on all 3 credit files. This action will provide protection to the consumer but make it difficult to apply for credit.
3. Look Over Your Credit Reports – A free credit report from each of the 3 reporting agencies will be provided after the fraud alert is put in place. Keep the unique number assigned to your account on hand as it will be requested when communicating with the agencies. Make notes of any suspicious activity over the next year.
4. Consider Freezing Your Credit Reports – If you have concluded that you are in fact the victim of identity theft you should freeze your accounts to lock down all credit information and not allow any more fraudulent activity. This can cost around $10 per reporting agency and typically free if proof of identity theft can be made.
5. Reach Out to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) –Fill out the ID theft complaint affidavit on their website and keep a copy for your personal records. This affidavit combined with a police report serve as your ID theft report which will come in handy when time comes to dispute fraud.
6. Make a Police Report – Secure a police report by bringing the FTC cover letter they provide you with. Make sure that the police department lists ALL instances of fraud by providing as much documented information as possible including the ID theft complaint affidavit. When you receive a copy of their report have them sign the FTC complaint and provide you with a police report number as well as the phone number of the officer who assisted you.
7. Send Your ID Theft Report to Affected Creditors – Provide your creditors with all documented evidence from both the FTC and the police in a formal letter. Request documentation of all fraudulent transactions.
8. Reach Out to Credit Reporting Agencies – Send your ID theft report to the consumer reporting agencies to have all fraudulent accounts blocked from showing up on your credit report. It is recommended that you keep an eye for suspicious activity just in case something leaks through that could affect you.
9. Make Password Changes for All Accounts – Make a new and different password for each of your accounts not using anything obvious. These should not be stored anywhere on any device.
10. Reach Out to the Social Security Fraud Department – Get ahold of the Inspector General’s office to notify them if your social security number has been used fraudulently. Request your Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement and go through to check for accuracy.
11. Get a New Driver’s License Number – If an individual has potentially been using your driver’s license ID request a new one to make the old one invalid and protect yourself.
12. Contact All of Your Utility Companies – A utility bill can be used as proof of residence for someone trying to open a new account and alerting them to identity theft can prevent that.
The effects of identity theft and fraud can be a cause for a mortgage application to be declined. If you believe you have become the victim of identity theft CLICK HERE to report and get started on the Federal trade Commission’s recovery plan or call 1 (877) 438-4338.
1 Warning Signs of Identity Theft – consumer.ftc.gov, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0271-warning-signs-identity-theft
2 A 12-point checklist for victims of identity theft – bankrate.com, 07/14/15, http://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit/steps-for-victims-of-identity-fraud.aspx