47% of Americans experienced identity theft in 2020. That’s nearly half the United States population.
Identity theft can occur in many forms, but its most well-known incarnation is financial identity theft. However, your social security number can be stolen and used without your consent.
If you’ve been the victim of identity theft or think you might be, there are some steps you’ll need to take to rectify the situation and secure your information again.
Read on for some useful tips and tricks.
How Do You Know If You’ve Been a Victim of Identity Theft?
Often, people are victims of identity theft without even knowing it. Your identity can be stolen for months on end without you noticing, which is the scary reality of identity theft.
You’ll likely realize you’ve been the victim of identity theft once the following occurs:
- Your bank statement has purchases you didn’t make
- Your credit card statement shows purchases you didn’t make
- Cash has been withdrawn from your account without your knowledge
- You are notified of a tax return you didn’t file
- You receive a statement for a bill you don’t have
- You’re denied credit when you typically have a high credit score
- Authentication messages from accounts you don’t have, or from legitimate accounts, you didn’t log into
- Your credit score has suddenly lowered
What Do You Do If You Suspect You’ve Been a Victim of Identity Theft?
If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft, contact your bank or credit card company. If the identity theft is bigger and comes from the IRS or another company, contact them immediately and let them know you’ve been a victim of identity fraud. They can often help you rectify the situation.
What to Do Next
After contacting the institution where your identity was stolen, you should close down any account associated with it. This prevents the person who took your identity from continuing to use your account. In some cases, this can be as simple as canceling a debit or credit card and having the financial institution send you a new one in the mail.
If you were the victim of identity fraud with another institution or the IRS, the process might not be as straightforward. However, all institutions where people hold accounts are aware of fraud and how their company deals with it. There will be a procedure in place for you.
Will I Be Charged for Any Unauthorized Purchases?
That depends on your institution. Most banks and credit card companies have fraud prevention to cover the cost of any fraudulent activity. If your bank or credit card company does not have this kind of cover, you may be liable for the fraud.
If you have to fight to get your money back legally, you may contact a lawyer. At Washington FCRA Litigation Lawyer, they help people stay protected from fraud and unauthorized credit reports.
Services That Can Help You
In addition to litigation, you may be able to get help from an identity recovery service. This is typically for more serious situations than a stolen card and may be able to help you repair your credit and recover your identity.
These services may be at no extra cost, while some may have costs associated with them. It will depend on what company you use and what you’ll need to be done to recover your identity.
They can help you with confusing documents you might need to review, write letters to credit agencies and debt collectors, as well as place freezes on your credit to prevent fraudsters from opening more lines of credit in your name.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
Preventing identity theft is difficult in this day and age. Often, identity theft occurs after a background check was made when you were hired for a job, applied for a credit card, or applied to rent an apartment or own a home. In these cases, individuals were granted access to your personal details and used them for nefarious reasons.
Identity theft also occurs when people use their cards at any machine, especially at ATMs, as they can easily copy your card information. This is done by rigging the machine, so it copies all of the information necessary to make an online purchase.
Additionally, people can steal your identity by hacking into people’s computers or accounts, or the old-fashioned way: simply stealing it physically.
Keeping your cards as secure as possible and using hard-to-guess passcodes are always useful. However, most of us will become a victim of identity theft at some point in our lives. As such, monitoring your credit report is the best way to tell if there is a “breach in security.”
You’re entitled to a copy of your credit report from all three credit companies. If you place a fraud alert on it, you’re allowed to look at your credit report more often.
Falling Victim to Identity Theft
If you’re a victim of identity theft, it can feel violating and sometimes even scary. Thankfully, there are ways you can prevent it and protect yourself against it. In this day and age, we’ll all be hacked or impersonated at least once in our lives, so you must be empowered and know what to do when it occurs and how to look for it.
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