~ 7 Tips to Detect Identity Fraud
~ 17-Step Identity Theft Checklist to Reduce The Impact of Identity Theft on VictimsOnline banking, shopping, and communication have certainly changed our everyday lives. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are always creating more inventive ways to deceive innocent consumers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) collects data to prepare the Consumer Sentinel Data Book that shows the impact of identity theft on victims each year. In 2018, the FTC received 444,344 identity theft reports, up from 371,000 reports in the prior year. That number exploded to 1.4 million reports in 2020. Since this data only includes the scams that were reported to the FTC, it’s safe to assume the actual number of victims is much higher. The three most common scams in 2021 involved government documents and benefits, credit cards, and loan fraud. At Schlanger Law Group, we provide identity theft victim assistance for those who have been scammed by these cyber thieves. Experience shows consumers can minimize their losses by acting as soon as possible once they discover identity theft. As lawyers for identity theft victims, we compiled this guide to assist identity theft victims.
Improve Your Odds of Detecting Identity Theft Using These 7 TipsWith so many unusual types of cyber theft, it is challenging for consumers to detect fraudulent situations and protect themselves. Here are 7 steps you can take to detect identity theft as quickly as possible:
- Review your bank statement at least once a month as soon as you receive it.
- Review your credit card statements every month, or more often if you suspect any problems.
- Request and review your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies annually. Order free copies from all three agencies once a year on this website: AnnualCreditReport.com. Look for any unfamiliar credit requests such as new credit applications, loans, or credit card accounts that you didn’t apply for.
- Analyze your tax records and government statements each year when you prepare your income tax return to ensure there are no reported payments or benefits that you didn’t receive.
- Respond immediately to creditors that contact you about suspected fraud.
- Reply to collection agency demand letters even when related to debts you don’t recognize and didn’t incur. Request full information and follow up with the named creditor.
- Pay attention to your regular utility bills, medical bills, insurance statements, and other financial documents to be sure the information is accurate.
A 17-Point Checklist to Help Reduce the Impact of Identity Theft on VictimsOnce you realize your personal information has been compromised, you need to notify various entities, protect your credit rating, and reduce the amount of money you can potentially lose. The key is to act quickly. Also, keep track of your actions and copies of all documents related to your fraud. We created this identity theft victim checklist to get you started. Some of these actions will not apply to your situation—if you have questions, reach out to an identity theft lawyer right away. Our lawyers for identity theft victims do not charge for initial case consultations and you may not pay attorney’s fees depending on your circumstances.
What to Do When You Are a Victim of Identity Theft ScamsIf you fall victim to an identity theft scam, follow these steps to help limit your losses:
- Call every company involved in the fraud. Explain that you are a victim of identity theft and dispute any unauthorized transactions.
- Send a follow-up letter to every company, explaining the same thing and including any supporting documents. Make sure to keep copies of your letters and to send them by certified mail or some other trackable means.
- Change your login information, PINs, passwords, and other account details including security questions and recovery emails or phone numbers.
- Contact the credit report agencies in writing to alert them about the fraud. You may want to freeze your credit report to restrict searchers’ access. Again, provide supporting documents, keep copies, and send the letters in a trackable way.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report to notify anyone trying to access your credit history that your report is in dispute and no further credit is allowed without your permission.
- Request copies of your credit reports and thoroughly review them for errors. Use the Annual Credit Report link mentioned above or call 1-877-322-8228. Alert the credit bureaus if you find anything suspicious.
- Report the identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov and follow the steps described on that site.
- File an Identity Theft Report with the FTC. You can do this on the government website mentioned in the prior bullet point. Send copies of the FTC report to the creditors and credit reporting bureaus (you can attach the FTC report as one of your supporting documents).
- File a police report to alert law enforcement about the situation and help protect others in your area. Provide a copy of the police report, or the report number if you don’t have a copy yet, to the creditors and credit reporting agencies as one of your supporting documents, if possible.
- Close any new unauthorized accounts. Do so by phone, and in writing. Request a confirmation letter confirming the account is not yours, you didn’t open it, the account is fraudulent, you are not liable for the account, and the account will be removed from your credit report.
- Keep a record of all communications with companies related to your identity theft including when you contact each company, who you speak with, and the outcome of the conversation. Request confirmation letters when appropriate and keep copies of all documents and reports.
- Be sure that the dispute letters you send to the creditors request all fraudulent transactions be removed from your accounts along with any related charges.
- Correct your credit reports by writing to each bureau. Include a copy of your FTC fraud report and proof of your identity. Ask the agencies to block the fraudulent information in your report. Contact the company that reported the fraudulent debt and tell them to stop reporting the information. Be specific about which information you are talking about (referencing specific account(s) and charge(s)) and be sure to explain why you are disputing the charge (explain, “I am a victim of identity theft and did not open or use this account.”)
- If you receive debt collection notices related to the fraudulent charges, dispute them within 30 days and provide evidence of the identity theft and your actions to correct it. Contact the creditor in question in writing and request full information. Tell the credit reporters to remove the debt collection from your report.
- If someone stole your social security card, driver’s license, or passport, or you simply lost these documents, notify the proper government agency immediately and replace the card(s) as soon as possible. Go to this US government site for more information.
- If your identity theft scam involves unemployment or other government benefits, report the fraud to your state unemployment insurance agency and the employer named in the application.
- IF YOU CANNOT RESOLVE YOUR IDENTITY THEFT PROBLEMS ON YOUR OWN, CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED IDENTITY THEFT LAWYER FOR HELP.