Identity fraud and identity theft are becoming more and more common. Even if you’ve done your best to review accounts regularly and keep your information safe, you may still become a victim. Here’s what to do if it appears your identity has been compromised.
How do I know if I’m a victim of identity fraud?
Compared to other types of theft, identity fraud can float under the radar. Many credit card companies now give you a call if they see suspicious transactions, but there are other less obvious red flags that thieves may have access to your accounts or other personal info:
You stop receiving your bills.
You are billed for medical services you didn’t receive.
Your health insurance company reports you’ve reached your benefits limit.
The IRS informs you that a tax return has already been filed in your name or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
A company you have an account or do business with reports it’s had a data security breach and your information may have been compromised.
What if my identity was stolen?
If it appears your identity or personal information has been stolen, take heart — you have specific rights as a fraud victim. There are many resources available to clean up the mess and recover from the theft. What you should do next depends on what information was stolen.
If it was your credit or debit card number, for example:
Call the credit card company or bank and ask for a new card.
Report any fraudulent charges to your bank’s fraud department to get them removed.
View your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies for free once per year. You can spread out your requests (i.e., ask for one every four months) to keep tabs on your credit throughout the year.
If the suspected theft involved your Social Security number, or you’re not sure what information was stolen, more protective steps may be necessary:
Put a fraud alert on your financial accounts by calling one of the three credit reporting agencies and ask them to initiate a 90-day fraud alert.
In more serious cases, consider putting a freeze on your credit. A freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit report and thus opening new accounts.
Check your annual credit reports for accounts you don’t recognize or mortgages you don’t own.
Double check all financial statements and health insurance statements for suspicious transactions and to help narrow down which accounts and information thieves may have access to.
If you do find fraudulent accounts or charges, file an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission. An Identity Theft Report helps create documentation to make it easier for you to recover from identity theft.
If you believe your Social Security number was stolen, try to file your taxes early to prevent a thief from beating you to it.
Be proactive. By law, you have limited liability for fraudulent charges as long as you report them as quickly as possible.
Have you ever been a victim of identity fraud? What happened to you and how did you recover?