Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S. and involves the illegal use of a person’s identity. Criminals use stolen identities to gain access to existing financial accounts, open new financials accounts in his or her name, or make fraudulent charges or loans.
Victims of identity theft may be expected to pay for goods or services they never purchased, deal with collection agencies for past due bills, lose job opportunities, or denied loans. Victims can spend months or even years repairing damage to their good name and credit!
The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to safeguard your financial and personal information and never give it out to unsolicited requests via email, phone calls, or text messages.
If you’ve ever disclosed your Social Security number in a phishing email or some other scam, here are some things you should do immediately:
- Contact the major credit bureaus and add a fraud alert to your credit report:
- Contact the local police and file a report. Be sure to obtain a copy for your records.
- Alert your main financial institutions and place a fraud alert on your account.
- Monitor your credit/debit card statements, banking statements, credit reports, and other bills for any discrepancies
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
- There are unexplained charges on your credit/debit card statement or withdrawals on your banking statement.
- Your monthly credit card statement, banking statement, or other bills stop coming.
- There are new bills for goods or services you never purchased.
- There are unexplained inquiries on your credit report.
- You are turned down for loans, credit cards, or other forms of credit for no apparent reason.
- Collection agencies are trying to collect payment from accounts that you didn’t open.