The Federal Trade Commission cautions consumers to keep a close eye on their bank accounts, financial statements, bills, and other records in order to catch the earliest signs of identity theft. If you notice any of these troublesome signs, don't ignore them. The sooner you report identity theft, the more quickly it can be resolved and the less damage will occur.
- Bank account withdrawals you don't recall making
- Missing bills or other mail
- A merchant refusing your check when you are not at fault
- Calls from collection agencies about debts that aren't yours or charges you were unaware of
- Unfamiliar accounts, charges, or inquiries listed on your credit report
- Medical bills or insurance claims for services you didn't receive
- Notices from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name when you try to file taxes and/or get your refund
- Income reported on your tax return from an employer you did not work for
- A notice of a data breach from a company with which you do business or where you have an account
- Being notified of applications for loans, credit lines, or credit cards you did not apply for
Review Your Credit Reports
Federal law mandates you can receive one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Get your credit reports annually, and review them thoroughly to ensure all the information is correct and up to date. Keep an eye out for any red flags that could indicate identity theft, such as unfamiliar inquiries or accounts and addresses you don't recognize. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to order your free credit reports.
Four steps to take if you suspect you have become a victim
- The first step you should take if you suspect you have become the victim of identity theft is to call your financial institution immediately. Contact your bank as well as your credit card companies, and let them know you have found evidence of theft or fraud. Close your financial accounts.
- Next, report the suspected theft or fraud to your local police department and fill out a police report. This will formalize your case, and start you on the road to remedying the situation with your creditors. Be sure to get a copy of the police report and note the report number for when you speak with financial institutions and the credit bureaus.
- Contact the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. They will flag your account and put a fraud alert on it, letting potential creditors know that new credit can't be given in your name without your approval.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) to report the identity theft to the federal government and fill out an ID theft affidavit that will help you communicate with companies, financial institutions, and creditors about what happened.