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Identity Fraud: What You Need to Know

MelissaK Blogger

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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?

 

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3 Comments
PatBee

I've been dealing with this and I am not sure if it's turning into identity theft or if I've just had a really bad run of luck. I lost my wallet and I deactivated everything but now I've had a series of THREE fraudulent charges on various accounts and what's weird is those cards weren't even ones that were in my wallet? The info shared here is really good and I see a few more things I can do to prevent any further damage. Thanks!

#cmgr

I am sorry to hear @PatBee that you have been running into trouble with your thieves. I hope you can get it sorted soon. Keep us posted what worked and what did not.  I had random charges on my credit card not too long ago myself. The way we realized it, was that someone ordered Pizza Hut! Now that was a mistake. Our household only eats Papa John's so that was a massive red flag! I immediately reviewed all charges and we found over $1,200 worth of fraud charges. It was scary but the credit card company dealt with it pretty good. Now we have a new card and I keep checking every Friday on the charges.

 

What preventative measures do others take?

CraigandJennyD

Good article! Interestingly, today I got my account statement from my savings account and the entire thing had been wiped out during the month of July with ACH withdrawals. I don't use the account often and so didn't know until I looked at my statement. Apparently, they had linked my account to many different types of accounts from Square to Clear Exchange as well as other bank accounts, so it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds. Kind of scary...keeping a close eye on the credit monitoring systems. Luckily, I had just signed up for a year of free fraud protection due to a security breach at my doctor's office. 

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