11 signs someone stole your identity
Find out what to do next
By Kristin Arnold, THELAW.TV
Identity thieves ruin the financial lives of millions Americans every year. Often, the signs that you're a victim hit you light a truck. You go to the ATM and there's no money left in your account. Or you get a call from your bank's fraud department about charges that you certainly didn't make.
But, very often, identity thieves get away with their crime for far too long because the crime isn't so obvious.
"The faster you find out that an thief stole your identity, the easier it is to stop the bleeding," said attorney Brian Albert of legal information website THELAW.TV. "Identity thieves have become more crafty. They are committing their crimes in ways that, at least temporarily, conceal their actions. That's why we all need to be vigilant about paying attention to our financial life."
Here are 11 tell-tale signs that someone stole your identity:
1. New accounts appear on your credit report. If your credit report contains accounts that you didn't open, someone else probably opened those accounts in your name.
2. There are unexplained withdrawals and charges on your statements. Banks don't typically make mistakes with withdrawals and charges. If you didn't make that suspicious-looking charge, a thief probably did.
3. You haven't received your bills, statements, or other important mail in a long time. This is a sign that someone probably submitted a change of address form for you. They're having your mail sent to their address.
4. You've received calls from debt collection agencies about products or services you didn't buy. When thieves steal your identity, one of the most common things they do is open a credit card and run up the charges. But, they never pay the bills. That'll lead to debt collectors calling you. After all, it's your name on the account.
5. There are checks missing from your checkbook. That's an obvious one. No explanation needed.
6. You apply for credit or a loan and are turned down. Most people who apply for credit know whether they're going to be approved or not. It's sort of like proposing marriage. You usually know the answer ahead of time. So, if you were expecting an approval and your credit app is denied, you better check your credit report real quick.
7. You get higher-than-expected interest rates. If you were expecting a certain interest rate, and you get hit with something higher, it's likely that there's something unexpected, and bad, on your credit report. Probably something you don't know about.
8. You receive a thank you gift. Some banks still send thank you gifts -- or thank you notes -- when you open an account. You may want that toaster that arrived in the mail. You may also want to check with the bank that sent the toaster and find out who opened the account.
9. Extra bills show up in the mail. If someone opens an account in your name, you're going to receive the bills.
10. Your new debit card doesn't show up. If someone changes the address on your bank account, your new debits cards won't arrive (when your current card expires).
11. You receive a strange email. You may get an email that you think is spam. Or it may looking like those phishing attempts that you're always deleting. But, it may be a legitimate email, from a legitimate bank, because that bank thinks you opened an account with them (when, in fact, a thief opened an account in your name and used your email address).
Now that your identity was stolen, your credit is threatened, and your life is spiraling, what's next? As a victim of identity theft, you need to act fast to minimize the lasting effects.
Here's what you need to do now:
1. You need to contact each of the major credit agencies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- and let their fraud departments know that you were a victim of identity theft. The faster you call, the faster the credit agencies will be able to flag adverse items that could end up on your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you 90 days to place an initial fraud alert. In most cases, you'll be entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each agency. Examine these reports carefully and notify the agencies of any discrepancies.
2. Close all accounts that were targeted by the identity thief -- or those that the thief opened in your name.
3. File a police report where the crime took place.
4. Continue to monitor your credit reports.
5. Consider "freezing" your credit reports.
6. Report the case to the Federal Trade Commission.
7. You may also need to contact the Postal Inspection Service (if the identity thief submitted a change-of-address form with your name), the Social Security Administration (if you believe your Social Security number is being used fraudulently), and the Internal Revenue Service (if the thief may be using your information for tax purposes).
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