Identity theft is committing fraud by using someone else’s personal information including a person’s name, Social Security number, or credit card information. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), each year, about 9 million Americans have their identities stolen.
There are many kinds of identity theft. It may come in the form of someone using your information to rent an apartment, get a loan, apply for a credit card, or set up an account. Often, people don’t realize that their identity was stolen until they see the charges on their credit card or are contacted by a debt collector. It’s definitely possible to resolve identity theft. However, the crime can give innocent people huge headaches because it can prevent people from getting loans, education, even job opportunities. There are also rare cases where innocent individuals are arrested for crimes that they did not commit.
How Can your Identity be Stolen?
Thieves can steal identities using a variety of ways. There’s dumpster diving, skimming, phishing, address changes, pretexting, and just good old fashioned stealing. This part of the article will discuss each of these identity theft methods.
Dumpster diving is when an individual rummages through trash bins searching for bills and other pieces of paper containing personal information. To prevent this, be sure to shred the credit card offers or bills that you receive.
Skimming occurs when a person (such as a dishonest cashier) uses a special storage device that steals your credit/debit card numbers when the card is swiped.
Phishing on the other hand, happens online. This makes use of fraudulent emails or webpages that lure individuals into a page “disguised” as an official or legitimate website. When people enter their personal information into these phishing sites, their data is saved. Prevent this by verifying the emails that you receive. Also be mindful of the URL or web address of the sites that you’re in to make sure that they’re really official.
Changing your address. Thieves will sometimes change your billing address by completing a change of address form in order to divert your bills and offers to another location.
Pretexting involves thieves using false pretenses to get your personal information from telephone companies, financial institutions, and other sources.
Old fashioned stealing, of course, needs no introduction. Thieves will steal your wallet or purse to obtain your credit cards and other personal information.
What Happens When your Identity Gets Stolen
When thieves get a hold of your personal and financial information, they can use it in a number of ways. Different types of fraud, including credit card fraud, phone or utilities fraud, bank/finance fraud, government documents fraud, and others may take place.
Credit card fraud is when they open new credit card accounts or use your credit card number to make unauthorized purchases. They can also change your billing address on the credit card to make sure that you don’t receive the statements and figure out what’s going on. Thieves can also open a new phone or utility account in your name to get free phone service, electricity, and other benefits all at your expense. Bank/finance fraud on the other hand involves thieves writing bad checks, taking out a loan in your name, or cloning your ATM card to make withdrawals. Government documents fraud would involve other people getting a driver’s license with your name but their photo. They may also file tax returns using your information, or they can use your SSN to get certain benefits.
Finding Out that You’re a Victim of ID Theft
Constance vigilance is key. Always check your bank statements each month, both in paper and online to catch suspicious activity. Also obtain a copy of your credit report on a regular basis, and see the standing of your accounts. If you check often, you’ll be able to limit the damages caused by ID theft.
The ugly and unfortunate ways of finding out that your identity was stolen can occur when you get a sudden call from a collection agency because of overdue or unpaid charges. You can also find out when you get a notice or letter in the mail about a car or house you never bought, a job you never had, or an apartment that you never rented. You can also find out that your ID was stolen when you suddenly get denied for a mortgage of loan because of bad credit.
Actions to Take When You Find Out About ID Theft
There are a number of steps that you can take after finding out that your identity was stolen. Be sure to file a report, notify your creditors, and dispute unauthorized charges. Also keep a very close eye on your statements for any suspicious activities.
The report that should file is called an “Identity Theft Report,” which details what happened when your ID was stolen. This report can be used to block fraud information from appearing on your credit report. An Identity Theft Report also prevents companies from collecting debts that are because of the theft, and it places and extended fraud alert on your credit report. In order to be entitled to the above-mentioned benefits, you must file an ID Theft Complaint with the FTC. Be sure to bring this complaint when you go to the police station to complete a police report. This needs to be done, because a police report is necessary to obtain copies of applications, transaction information, and other data concerning the thief.