Identity Theft Warning Signs
Identity thieves can drain your bank account, open new accounts and damage your good credit and reputation. These six tips can help you stay ahead of thieves and guide you in the event your identity has been stolen.
1. Gather intelligence. The United States, United Kingdom and Canada all provide free credit reports from the major credit bureaus. In the U.S., visit annualcreditreport.com to obtain one free credit report from the three bureaus each year. If you have access to multiple reports per year, space out your requests for better year-round coverage. However, if you suspect fraud, get them all right away.
2. Review everything. Don’t pay bills without scrutinizing them. Open all bank, brokerage and credit card statements in a timely manner and read every line. Scan for unusual purchases or withdrawals that could signal someone else is making charges. Be aware of the time of month your bills arrive. If they stop, someone may have changed the address on your account. Consider opting into E-Statements to reduce the paper trail thieves rely on.
3. Stay curious. Sometimes people have a tendency to discount the possibility that a charge or withdrawal is fraudulent. Don’t assume that your partner or family member made the transaction—ask. And don’t be shy about calling the company the charge came from as well as your financial institution.
4. Guard privacy. Identity thieves may have some of your information but need more in order to perpetuate a fraud. You need to be careful with whom you share personal information. Don’t respond to emails or calls asking for personal details—instead call back the company directly to verify the request is legit. Keep privacy settings high on your social media accounts. Never share or give out PIN numbers or passwords.
5. Act immediately. If you suspect your identity was stolen, waste no time. Notify your credit union and creditors. Place a hold/freeze on your credit file and alert credit bureaus of identity theft. Change all of your online passwords. The sooner you can lock down your accounts, the harder it will be for the thieves to cash in on your identity and the faster you can resolve any fraud.
6. Alert authorities. If you’ve been hit by identity fraud, you need to contact the police. Many businesses and creditors will want a copy of the police report as they work with you to resolve fraud. You should also inform the government by reporting it to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
7. Place a "fraud alert" or "security freeze" on your file at the three major credit bureaus: Experian at 888-397-3742 toll-free (experian.com), Equifax at 800-525-6285 (equifax.com) and Trans-Union at 800-680-7289 (transunion.com). Alerts are free for everyone; freezes are more secure and sometimes free for people 65 and older.
Content provided for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal advice on any subject matter.