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Recovering From Identity Theft

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft happens when someone takes control of your personal information and uses it for their own gain. Forms of identity that can be stolen and misused include your name, social security number, date of birth, drivers license, addresses, and more. They can use this information to apply for credit cards, loans, sign up for utilities, or steal money from your existing bank accounts. Oftentimes a thief can steal thousands or tens of thousands of dollars worth, and you won’t even be aware of it until the collection agencies come calling as the debts pile up.

How can Someone Steal My Identity?

There are a couple ways for someone to steal your information. Here are some of the common methods:

  • Card Skimming – stealing your personal card information at an ATM or restaurant
  • Wallets – stolen or lost wallets
  • “Friendly” Thefts – thefts by people that you know
  • Mailbox/Dumpster Diving – going through your mailbox or the dumpster to find personal information
  • Online – email phishing, social media, fake bank sites
  • Data breaches – hacking into databases to get your personal information

How can I Tell if My Identity has been Stolen?

There are a few warning signs that tend to pop up when you are a victim of identity theft:

  • Your credit card statement shows unauthorized transactions
  • Your bank statement shows unauthorized transactions
  • Credit reports list new unknown credit card accounts
  • You don’t seem to receive your monthly statements consistantly
  • You receive credit cards that you didn’t apply for
  • You receive mail concerning purchases that you don’t know about
  • You are denied new credit or loans for no apparent reason
  • You receive phone calls from collection agencies for purchases you don’t recall making

What Should I Do if My Identity has been Stolen?

Here are 12 steps to take if you suspect or have confirmed that your identity has been stolen:

  1. Order credit reports from the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to look for unauthorized accounts or credit inquirys
  2. Alert the credit bureaus and place a 90 day fraud alert on your credit reports
  3. Contact the financial institutions where the fraudulent accounts were opened; explain that you didn’t open it, and want it closed and removed from your credit report
  4. File an ID theft complaint with the FTC
  5. File a police report locally as well as wherever the fraud took place
  6. Sign up for a credit monitoring service to alert you to any new suspicious activity
  7. Closely watch your bank and credit card statements
  8. Place an extended fraud alert or perhaps a security freeze on your credit reports
  9. Contact each of the credit bureaus and follow their dispute guidelines
  10. Drivers License – Contact your local DMV for forms and procedures to replace your drivers license
  11. Passport – Report a missing passport to the US Department of State
  12. Social Security – Visit local social security office for a replacement SSN
  13. Stolen Checks – Contact your bank to place stop payments on missing checks
  14. Missing Statements – Contact your bank or creditor to verify that the statement was sent; if it was sent but you didnt’ receive it, contact your local post office
  15. File an impersonation report with the police
  16. Extreme case – hire an attorney to clear your name and help with legal matters

For more information regarding identity theft, download a free identity theft kit from SpendOnLife.com. The kit includes a resource guide that has important phone numbers, websites, and addresses, as well as log sheets that help you stay organized while recovering from identity theft.

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