If your identity has been stolen then you are not alone. Every two seconds there is a new victim of identity theft. With 500 million people having their information compromised in recent data breaches, it’s very likely they could become victims of identity theft.
There are a few red flags that go off when a person becomes a victim of identity theft. Do not ignore these signs. Instead, take measures to rectify the loss. Damage control is time consuming and tedious but it may just save your lifetime savings.
Here are a few things you can do if you become a victim of identity theft.
1. Credit/ Debit Card Fraud
If your existing credit/debit card is misused and you see it in your statement,immediately call the credit company/bank and put a freeze on your account. Inform them in writing too. Ask them to create a new account and send you a new card. The FTC has a detailed step-by-step guide(link is external) to help you recover from this.
2. New Account Fraud
Sometimes thieves use your Social Security number to create new credit/debit cards with your identity and mail it to a different address. This is hard to find out. If and when you do find out, immediately place a fraud alert or credit freeze with one of the three national credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. A fraud alert will allow a credit issuer to verify the identity of the person opening anew account. A security freeze will stop access to your accounts. This means credit card companies need your permission to access your files. A security freeze may make things a bit complicated for individuals who apply for credit cards often, apply for a mortgage, or apply for a new job.
3. Mail and Driver’s License Fraud
If your situation involves mail fraud then file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspector. If it involves your driver’s license then file a complaint with the DMV.
4. Debt Collectors
When you are a victim of identity theft debt collectors are likely to call you and expect you to pay for the fraudulent charges. Ask for the name and contact information of the person and company calling you. Also ask for the credit issuing company’s name, the account number, and the date when the charges were made. Inform them in writing about your identity theft and fill out their fraud affidavit form or give them the FTC fraud affidavit form if they accept it. Follow up with them and get their written confirmation that you do not owe them the debt and that the account has been closed. Complete the FTC’s online complaint form(link is external) and create your fraud affidavit. Print and save this for future reference. Make a police complaint. Identity theft is a punishable offense. Keep the number of the investigating officer handy when creditors and debt collectors call.
5. Stolen Checks and Banking Fraud
If your checks are stolen or someone has set up a bank account fraudulently, ask your bank to provide you with a fraud affidavit. Put a “stop payment” on all outstanding checks, close all accounts, and open a new account.
6. Tax Fraud
Every year tax fraud increases exponentially. Identity thieves use your SSN to file taxes and channel your tax refund into their accounts. Sometimes people use a stolen SSN to apply for a job. The employer of the identity thief may report the thief’s salary to the IRS and will make it look like the victim did not pay his taxes.If you think you are victim of tax identity theft you will have to make a complaint with the IRS and fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit(link is external).
7. Medical Identity Theft
The recent medical data breaches have exposed millions of Americans to medical identity theft. Criminals use your name, SSN, and other personal information to obtain healthcare and medical products. They can rack up a huge bill for conditions you don’t have. This not only puts a financial burden on the victim but it will mess up their medical records. Cleaning that up will take months, making it difficult for healthcare providers to give you proper medical care.
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Identity theft is no small crime. It not only takes a toll on your finances but it can alsoupset you emotionally. Don’t let criminals steal the life you have built. Stay safe and getthe best defense to preserve your identity.
Sources :Privacyrights.org(link is external), Daniel J. Solove, The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age 110 (New YorkUniversity Press), FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January –December 2015 (Feb 2016)The Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin, Victims of Identity Theft, September 2015