When someone gains access to your personal information they can use it to attempt a type of crime called identity theft or identity fraud. Identity theft can cost you money, time, damage to your credit scores and in a worst case scenario, police arrest under a case of mistaken identity. This can include opening credit card accounts, get medical treatement, filing for tax refunds, making purchases or comitting fraud in your name. You can be held liable for these things until you prove these were services you did not authorize.
Watch for the warning signs that someone is using your information. This could be things like:
- a notice from the IRS regarding filing you have not done
- unfamiliar accounts on your credit report
- receiving bills for things that aren't yours
- calls about debts you don't owe
- unauthorized or unknown activity on your bank and credit accounts
- unauthorized or unknown activity on your health insurance plan
If you see these warning signs, act quickly to help limit the damage. Here is what you can do:
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of your report to review for suspicious activity. Contact one of the three credit bureaus, that company must alert the other two.
- Experian.com/fraudalert 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion.com/fraud 1-800-680-7289
- Equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance 1-888-766-0008
2. Call the companies where you know fraud has occurred.
- Explain that someone has stolen your identity and to close or freeze your accounts.
3. Obtain and review your credit report for unauthorized account activity
- Get your free credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Go to annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
4. Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Comission
- Go to identitytheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338 and include as many details as possible
5. File a report with the local police department. Bring the following:
- A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report
- A government-issued ID with a photo
- Proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement, or utilities bill)
- Any other proof you have of the theft—bills, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notices, etc.
Tell the police someone stole your identity and you need to file a report.
6. Visit the Federal Trade Comission's website to start a recovery plan