What should you do when you think your identity has been stolen?
Here are simple steps to follow from the Federal Trade Commission.
We know: All About Identity Theft
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is when someone steals your basic identity information (such as your Social Security number) and your financial information (such as you bank account number) and uses this information to commit fraud, create a phony persona or steal your money.
What should I do if my identity has been stolen?
If you suspect that your personal information has been hijacked and misappropriated to commit fraud or theft, take action immediately, and keep a record of your conversations and correspondence.
Your first 3 steps should be...
First, contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion.
Second, close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Third, file a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
How do thieves get my personal information?
Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods - low- and hi-tech - to gain access to your data, including:
- They steal wallets and purses containing your identification and credit and bank cards.
- They steal your mail, including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information.
- They complete a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
- They rummage through your trash, or the trash of businesses, for personal data in a practice known as "dumpster diving."
- They fraudulently obtain your credit report by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for - and a legal right to - the information.
- They get your business or personnel records at work.
- They find personal information in your home.
- They use personal information you share on the Internet.
- They buy your personal information from "inside" sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services or credit.
How do thieves use stolen information?
Here are a few common examples:
- They call your credit card issuer and, pretending to be you, ask to change the mailing address on your credit card account. The imposter then runs up charges on your account. Because your bills are being sent to the new address, it may take some time before you realize there's a problem.
- They open a new credit card account, using your name, date of birth and SSN. When they use the credit card and don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.
- They establish phone or wireless service in your name.
- They open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
- They file for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
- They counterfeit checks or debit cards, and drain your bank account.
- They buy cars by taking out auto loans in your name.