If You’re A Victim Of Identity Theft
If you think your identity has already been stolen, see Stolen Identity? Here’s What to Do and visit Identitytheft.gov. Also, keep an eye on your credit report and respond to any inaccurate information. It’s also a good idea to file your taxes earlyas soon as you canbefore a scammer does.
If you need help straightening out your finances, dealing with debt collection agencies, or getting credit bureaus to remove fraudulent information from your credit report after an identity thief opens new accounts in your name, consider talking to an identity theft attorney, debt settlement attorney, or a consumer protection attorney. An attorney can also advise you of all of the rights and the remedies available to you under federal and state law.
Don’t Be An Easy Mark: Never Share A Photo Of Your Credit Card On A Social Network
This tip might seem obvious but people still do share a photo of their credit card on social networks. The screenshot above, taken from Twitter, shows an example of what not to do. I did obfuscate the key information as the person who shared it had not. As a matter of fact, never share any photo of a document on a social network 🙂
What Do I Do If I Think I Have Been A Victim Of Identity Theft
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft, contact one of the nationwide credit reporting companies and place a fraud alert in your credit report.
You can contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies, Equifax
|TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department,P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016|
A fraud alert requires creditors who check your credit report to take steps to verify your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional card, or increasing the credit limit on an existing account based on a consumer’s request. When you place a fraud alert on your at one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, it must notify the others.
There are two main types of fraud alerts: initial fraud alerts and extended alerts.
Initial fraud alerts
To file an identity theft report, you must file either a police report or a report with a government agency such as the Federal Trade Commission.
When you place an initial fraud alert in your file, you’re entitled to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies. These free reports do not count as your free annual report from each credit reporting company.
You can place an extended alert on your credit report after your identity has been stolen and you file an identity theft report.
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Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
In a high-tech world, there are still pickpockets who can fleece people on trains and crowded streets and shoulder surfers who eavesdrop as people give out a credit card number or Social Security number over the phone.
When you leave a store or restaurant, make sure you havent left your credit or debit card on the table or your smartphone in the restroom. Dont leave a handbag in a shopping cart while you look at something that interests you.
Be Vigilant During Tax Time
If you get a supposed IRS email asking for personal or financial information, delete it or send it to the IRS at for investigation. Don’t be fooled by links to what looks like the real IRS websitethat too could be a fraud. The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to ask for personal or financial information like PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks, or other financial accounts. When in doubt, contact the IRS.
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What Is Credit Fraud
Credit card fraud involves someone making unauthorized purchases on your credit or debit card account. It could be someone you know who takes your card and makes purchases you didnt give them permission for or a criminal who gains access to either your credit card number or the physical card.
Credit fraud can also occur through digital payment methods such as ACH, EFT or mobile wallets although and Apple Pay are some of the most secure forms of payment you can use today.
How Can You Minimize Your Risk
- Protect your SIN. Dont use it as a piece of ID and never reveal it to anyone unless you are certain the person asking for it is legally entitled to that information. When an organization requests your SIN, ask if it is legally required to collect it, and if not, offer other forms of ID.
- Pay attention to your billing cycle and ask about any missing account statements or suspicious transactions.
- Immediately report lost or stolen credit or debit cards.
- Carry only the ID you need.
- Do not write down any passwords or carry them with you.
- Protect your computer and its information by installing Internet security software products.
- Be extremely careful when you provide personal information via email or over the Internet. Take extra care when providing information on social networking sites such as Facebook.
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How Credit Card Fraud Happens
- make a purchase at a place of business
- make a purchase or transaction online
- make a purchase or transaction by telephone
- withdraw money from an automated teller machine
A person can steal your credit card or credit card information by:
- going through your garbage or mailbox to find credit card statements or other banking information
- swiping your credit card through a device that copies the information stored on the magnetic stripe of your card
- hacking into the computers of companies and stealing credit card information
- installing small devices on payment terminals that record your credit card information
- phishing, that is, sending you an email that looks like it comes from a real business asking for credit card information
- asking you to use your credit card on an illegitimate website to make a purchase
Ask Questions Before You Share Your Information
Dont be afraid to ask questions when you are asked to provide personal information like your Social Security number or date of birth.
The following questions can help you decide if it is safe to share your information:
- Ask why the company needs your information and what happens if you dont share it.
- Ask how they will protect your information and who they will share it with.
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How Are Personal Details Stolen
There is a variety of ways in which identity details are stolen, with the main ones including:
- Common theft, e.g. having personal possessions stolen from pockets, bags, a property, or via snatching incidents, thereby giving criminals access to different forms of your ID.
- Cold calling / Vishing. This involves fraudsters making phone calls, pretending to be a legitimate business, then trying to extract personal details and other financial information during the call.
- Hacking. This could be criminals hacking into a computer or phone to steal details.
- Phishing. Fraudsters often send emails, SMS , or instant messages that are made to look as though theyve been sent by trusted companies. These contain a link which goes to a fake website designed to steal details, or an attachment which downloads malware onto the victims computer.
- Malware, including keylogging programs, downloaded by emails or on compromised or bogus websites.
- Data breaches, e.g. directly from a data breach, or details purchased from criminal forums on the dark web, and/or shared from other data breaches, or in private exchanges between rogue employees and their handlers or associates.
- From intercepted or stolen statements, e.g. bank statements and other personal correspondence, or personal paperwork recovered from bins.
- From over-sharing on social media.
- Shoulder surfing while paying for goods or at an ATM.
- From card details saved in websites.
How Can A Thief Steal My Identity
A thief can get your personal information in person or online. Here are some ways thieves might steal someones identity. A thief might:
- steal your mail or garbage to get your account numbers or your Social Security number
- trick you into sending personal information in an email
- steal your account numbers from a business or medical office
- steal your wallet or purse to get your personal information
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Final Thoughts On How To Prevent Identity Theft
Identity theft has experienced an uptick during COVID-19 and is often on the rise in times of uncertainty, so it is important to be aware and keep an eye out for signs of fraud. With these tips in mind, you will be better prepared to protect yourself against common scams and other forms of identity theft, ultimately keeping your information safe and secure.
How Will I Know If Someone Steals My Identity
Read your bills and account statements. Watch for:
- things you did not buy
- withdrawals you did not make
- a change of your address that you did not expect
- bills that stop coming
Look at medical statements. You might see charges you do not recognize. That might mean someone stole your identity.
Get your credit report. You get one free credit report every year from each credit reporting company.
- Answer questions from a recorded system. You have to give your address, Social Security number, and birth date.
- Choose to only show the last four numbers of your Social Security number. It is safer than showing the full number on your report.
- Choose which credit reporting company you want a report from.
The company mails your report to you. It should arrive two to three weeks after you call.
Read your credit report carefully. Look for mistakes or accounts you do not recognize. This could mean someone stole your identity.
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Ways To Prevent Identity Theft
Millions of people fall victim to identity theft each year. The number seems to be decreasing the past couple of years, but even one is too many in my opinion. To prevent the possible emotional and financial stress of having your identity stolen, just praying that the government and credit report agencies will further improve their system isnt enough.
Below are 45 precautions you can take to prevent identity theft. Incorporate these into your way of life to greatly reduce the chances of fraud knocks on your door.
Dont Leave Your Purse Or Wallet In Your Car
Thieves look for purses and wallets in cars parked at parks, lakes, beaches and other places were people may relax and let down their guard. Thieves also watch parking lots to see if anyone puts their purse in their car or trunk as they get out. Dont be an easy target. Dont leave your cards or identification in your car. If you need to put your valuables in your trunk, do so before you arrive at your destinationespecially if you are parking where a lot of other cars are parked.
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S To Take If Youre The Victim Of Identity Theft
If you suspect youre the victim of identity theft, its important to act quickly. Here are some steps you should take:
Phone Your Credit Card Issuer: If you suspect youre the victim of fraud, contact your credit card issuer immediately. Most issuers have a 24-hour toll-free hotline to report fraud and theft. Although most credit cards issuers offer zero liability protection, its your responsibility as a cardholder to report any signs of fraud right away.
Phone the Police: Once youve notified your credit card issuer, you should report the crime to your local police department. Be sure to obtain a copy of the police report, as it can come in handy when disputing fraudulent charges with your issuer.
Review Your Credit History: To make sure your other personal information hasnt been compromised, you should immediately request a copy of your credit report from credit reporting agencies, TransUnion and Equifax. You should notify the agencies of the suspected fraud this will let you know if a criminal tries to fraudulently use your personal information to take out a mortgage or open a line of credit in your name.
Place A Fraud Alert On Your Credit Reports
A fraud alert is a free service that alerts lenders to the fact that you have been a victim of identity theft. To set this up, you can contact any one of the three credit bureaus. That reporting agency in turn must notify the other two, and each bureau will send you written confirmation that the fraud alert has been placed. Your fraud alert will last for one year, but you have the option to renew after that.
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Shred Important Papers When It Is Time To Dispose Of Them
If you have documents at home with account numbers or other sensitive information, shred them rather than throwing them out. Some fraudsters do obtain information through dumpster diving, but shredding your documents will make it harder for them to use that information against you. Many financial institutions host free shred-a-thon events, allowing community members to safely dispose of their personal documents, making it a great way to prevent identity theft.
Collect Mail Every Day
Dont let mail pile up in your mailbox. Even junk mail with your name and address on it can be used to put in a fake change of address and have your mail redirected to a criminal. Put a hold on mail delivery when you go on vacation.
Use the U.S. Postal Services Informed Delivery email notifications so you know if mail youre supposed to receive doesnt arrive.
Shred unwanted mail, especially prescreened credit offers. Be suspicious if you stop getting mail, especially bills and account statements.
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What Is Credit Card Fraud
According to the FBI, credit card fraud describes any instance where personal information related to your credit card is used without your consent to purchase items or receive money. Take note that these fraudulent charges can happen whether identity thieves steal your physical credit card or as it may be more likely they steal your card numbers online.
The Difference Between A Security Freeze And Credit Monitoring
The credit agencies really, really, really want you to pay for credit monitoring, because its a recurring $10 or $20 monthly charge forever. They each offer their own lock feature, but only to paying customers, and you really need to pay for all three of them if you want it to work very well. Of course, thats the solution they push in all their marketing, because thats how they pay the bills.
But credit monitoring only alerts you after somebody opens an account in your name. Whats the point in that? Sure, you can try and fight it, but by the time that happens, the damage is already done. And if you have to pay for credit monitoring for all three agencies all the time, youre going to just go broke.
A security freeze, on the other hand, is going to prevent anybody from opening an account without having access to all your information and your secret PIN number .
If you do have to pay for a security freeze, its a one-time fee as opposed to a monthly fee for monitoring. To thaw your frozen credit report might be free depending on the state or the agency, or might cost up to $10. If you are a victim of identity theft, you can get it all for free, but youll need to figure out the process to officially file a report and get a case number.
Bottom line: a maximum $30 one time to freeze your credit on all three bureaus is cheaper than paying $20 a month for monitoring for the rest of your life.
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Use Strong Passwords And Add An Authentication Step
Use a password manager to create and store complex, unique passwords for your accounts. Dont reuse passwords. Adding an authenticator app can reduce your risk. Dont rely on security questions to keep your accounts safe your mothers maiden name and your pets name arent hard to find. Think carefully about what you post on social media so you don’t give away key data or clues about how you answer security questions.
Keep Your Credit Card And Cvv Numbers Safe
Skip storing card numbers on your online retail accounts. Not only will it help you protect yourself against credit card fraud, but its also a smart budgeting strategy because you cant purchase with just the touch of a Buy button.
It makes you think about your purchases, Velasquez says.
Another key aspect of online credit card security is your cards CVV number.
CVV numbers help limit fraud, and most online merchants require you to enter one along with your card number and expiration date.
But not all merchants use them. You may be risking your own security by shopping with a merchant that doesnt ask for your cards CVV number if that merchant stores your credit card information.
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