Identity theft is a serious issue that’s far too common in the United States. The 2018 Identity Fraud Study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research revealed that 16.7 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2017.
That breaks down to about 1 in every 15 people!
If you think you might be a victim, the first step is to thoroughly analyze your situation, noting all red flags you’ve encountered. If you conclude that your identity has in fact been stolen, it’s vital that you act fast.
Steps to Take if Your Identity is Stolen
If you’re experiencing any of the issues listed above, it’s wise to take action immediately. Here are some of the first steps you should take.
File a Report. Get started by filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission. After you fill out some questions about your situation they will help you create and execute a plan to recover from identity theft.
Contact Your Bank and Creditors. Give your bank a call and either lock or close the account that has been affected. It’s best to give any creditor or banking institution that you use a heads up, so they are aware of the fraudulent activities.
Install a Fraud Alert and Review Your Credit Report. Reach out to a credit bureau and request a fraud alert. Placing a fraud alert is free, lasts for 90 days, and notifies any institution that pulls your credit report that your identity may have been stolen recently.
You should also request a new credit report to see if you can spot any other signs of fraud, such as unrecognized payment history, listed employers that you’ve never worked for, or any other incorrect personal information.
Contact Local Police. Filing a report with your local police department is another good way to mark your incident on record. Even if they end up unable to help immediately, your report could end up helping to track down repeat offenders down the road.
Change Your Passwords. Banking apps, financial accounts, all of them. Upgrade to more complex passwords so you can lower your chances of getting hacked again in the future.
How to Know if Your Identity is Stolen
It’s just as important to know what to look out for as it is knowing what to do. Sometimes you don’t realize your identity is being compromised. Here’s some red flags to watch out for.
Unauthorized Transactions. You should make a habit of thoroughly checking your bank account and credit card statements. Be on the lookout for ANY transaction or withdrawal that looks unfamiliar to you.
Receiving Strange Bills. Pay close attention to your mail. It’s easy to blow right past random envelopes that look like junk mail, but a bill from an unknown service (such as a medical provider) could be one of your first indications of identity theft.
Not Receiving Expected Bills. On the flip side, it’s also highly suspicious if you suddenly stop receiving bills or banking statements that you normally get in the mail. This could be a sign that an identity thief has gotten into one of your accounts and has updated your billing information in an attempt to hide info from you.
Rejected Cards or Insurance Plans. Your credit card randomly gets declined at checkout. Your health provider denies legit/routine medical claims. If you get blindsided by these and other suspicious instances, you should take it as a serious sign of potential fraud.
Suspicious Phone Calls, Texts or Emails. It’s easy to brush these automated messages off as scams, as they often are, but they also could be a clue that you’re already under attack. Don’t ever give banking numbers or any personal information to an email address or phone number that you aren’t 100% sure is safe.
Identity fraud could happen to anyone, at any time. Luckily, there are tons of ways you can protect yourself, and your credit, ahead of time. It pays to do your research and plan ahead, so you can be as prepared as possible for any potential incidents.