Awareness of identity theft is the main step in protecting yourself from it. That means knowing what it is and being able to recognize it. Law enforcement defines identity fraud or identity theft, as all crimes committed against personswhere financial and personal data is obtained by means of deception or fraud, usually for financial gain. Specialized background check services such as Check Peoplecan help you determine if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.
How YouCan Tell Your Identity has Been Stolen
If you see charges for items you didn’t purchase on your credit card statement, you stopped getting a bill in the mail, or you got a strange new bill for the first time, you may have fallen prey to a scammer. Always monitor your account statements closely. Look for unexpected changes and withdrawals you never made. Check your credit report for unfamiliar information. If you have noticed any of these things, you may be strongly suspecting identity theft at this point.
Report to the FTC
Incidences of identity theft have to be reported to the FTC. You can do this by calling 1-877-438-4338 or online at IdentityTheft.gov. You will obtain an identity fraud report and a plan for recovery if you report the crime online. To have your plan updated, track progress, and send prefilled forms to creditors, you must create an account on the FTC website. You can’t access the required forms or the report later unless you create an account.
The FTC will get your details if you report the crime by phone. However, you’ll get neither a recovery plan nor an ID theft report in this case.
Report to the Police
You might have to report the case of identity fraud to the police if the perpetrator used your name in an interaction with them, you know the perpetrator personally, or a business or creditor requests a police report.
Specific Identity Theft Types
There are specific identity theft types and specific agencies they are reported to. For example, cases of tax identity theft are reported to the IRS. Cases of theft due to a stay in a long-term care facility or a nursing home are reported to the Long-Term Care Resource Center of the Ombudsman.
If you want to place a freeze or a fraud alert on your accounts, get in touch with one of the three national credit reporting agencies. Ask for credit report copies to make sure the thief hasn’t already created unauthorized credit accounts with your data. The agency you’ve contacted will alert the other two.
If a bank or credit card account has been compromised, contact the respective financial institution. Your State Attorney General might offer a checklist, advice, or an advocate to assist you in recovering from the crime.
Keep in mind that none of the above-mentioned resources can replace reporting identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
If the thief created a credit account with a retailer, the crime must be reported to the company. There have been cases where identity thieves even applied for jobs at companies in their victim’s name. If you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you might need a new ID cardor new personal records.
Medical Identity Theft
This is another specific type of identity theft,which occurs when someone uses your first and last name, insurance plan number, Social Security number, or other personal information to get medical assistance. This can include medication, your coverage under Medicare or insurance, and access to your medical records.
To prevent medical identity theft, review your Medicare Summary or benefits explanation,and report unfamiliar charges to Medicare or your health insurance provider. Don’t share your health insurance ID numbers, Medicare number, or Social Security number with anyone but your care providers. Ask for copies of your medical records and check them for false information.
If you have Medicare, call Medicare’s fraud office or the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Servicesat 1-800-447-8477.
On a final note, don’t open any suspicious-looking websites and don’t click on random links in text messages or emails. Identity thieves regularly use sites and emails that resemblethose from your credit card issuer, bank, or mortgage lender.
Never enter a username or password on a login screen that does not look familiar. Don’t have your Social Security card on you if you’re not going to need it, and never disclose your SSN unless absolutely necessary. Don’t share personal data such as your bank account number, SSN, or date of birth with random people. Monitor your billing cycles and get in touch with the sender if any account statements or bills are late.