Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses your personal information for their own benefit or to commit fraud. For example, the thief might use your driver’s license or Social Security number to open an account in your name. Once their process is complete, they can run up bills in your name. Some might even use your information to gain access to medical records.
There are many ways thieves can get access to your information. Some get it from stealing your debit card number or even going through your mail and getting your financial information. They can then open financial and or credit card accounts in your name and start committing fraud. Others simply use your credit card account to make unauthorized purchases, while some go online and use fraudulently acquired information to rack up bills.There are many other methods thieves use to gain access to your accounts… but that’s for another time.
Right now, it’s time to focus on what signs to look for that might be a warning that your information has been compromised.
- Unauthorized Bank Withdrawals. Has money been taken out of your bank account without your permission? Check with the bank to see what might be going on.
- Missing Bills. If you stop receiving bills or other types of mail, it could mean someone has stolen your identity and changed the address on your accounts. Call your creditors to see if there might be a problem.
- Are merchants refusing your checks? It could mean that someone has been using your name to gain credit, racking up unpaid bills and your credit is in a bad state. Check your credit report with one, if not all, of the credit reporting agencies.
- Debt Collectors. Are you getting calls or letters from debt collectors regarding debts that aren’t yours? Check your credit report immediately for new accounts you never opened… and other irregular activity.
- Credit Report Irregularities? If there are unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report, it could be a sure sign someone has gotten hold of your identity and is using it for their own gain.
- Health Plan Denials. If your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because their records show you’ve reached your benefits limit (when you know you haven’t), it’s a good idea to check your credit reports immediately.
- Health Plan Rejection. If a health plan won’t cover you due to a health condition in your medical records that you don’t have, it could be a sign someone is using medical benefits in your name.
- IRS Filing Issues. When you get a notification from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name, it’s time to check your credit report.
- Unexpected Medical Bills. Are you getting bills from healthcare providers you don’t know or have never visited? It’s called, “Medical Identity Theft” and you need to act to get it resolved.
- Data Breach. If you receive notice that your personal information was compromised due to a data breach, keep a close eye on your credit report and credit score.
According to the FTC, identity thieves can drain your back account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts in your name or get medical treatment on your health insurance. Criminals can even file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your credit report on a consistent basis.
People in myFICO forums have had their identities stolen. See how they’ve handled it and get some pointers… just in case.