ID Theft: What to Do If You Think You’re a Victim

Identity theft can happen to anyone. In fact, someone falls victim to identity thieves every two seconds in the U.S., according to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research. The same study found that one out of every three people who were involved in a data breach later had their identities stolen. With mega-breaches occurring every year, there’s no denying that identity theft is a real risk for everyone.

How do you know if you’ve been a victim of identity theft? And if it happens to you, what can you do about it?

Signs of Identity Theft

Certain signs may indicate you’ve become a victim of identity theft, including:

  • You review your credit report and see new credit lines that you did not open.
  • Your credit report includes hard inquiries from creditors you did not authorize to review your credit report.
  • You receive bills from unknown sources for items or services you didn’t purchase.
  • You receive calls from creditors or collection agencies for debt you did not incur.
  • A healthcare provider bills you for a treatment or prescription you didn’t get.
  • Your health insurer declines your claim, saying you’ve already had the service or have reached your benefits limit.
  • The IRS rejects your income tax filing because they say a tax return has already been filed in your name.
  • You receive a data breach notification letter from a company you do business with.

What to Do If Identity Theft Happens to You

If you find evidence that you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, taking these steps may help you resolve it:

1. Notify one of the three national credit bureaus.

Ask the credit bureau to place a fraud alert on your account. That bureau will notify the other two of your request, and they will also initiate fraud alerts. The alerts tell creditors to confirm your identity before approving any application for new credit in your name. This may make it harder for identity thieves to open a credit account using your information.

2. Review your credit reports for signs of identity theft.

Placing an initial fraud alert entitles you to a free copy of your credit report from each of the national credit bureaus. Request your reports and carefully review them. If you find evidence of fraudulent activity, initiate a dispute of the incorrect information. You should also notify the creditor involved. Remember to communicate in writing, keep copies of all your letters and pertinent documents, plus a written log of any phone communication.

3. Obtain an identity theft report.

Go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website and complete an identity theft complaint form. The FTC will use the information you provide to generate an Identity Theft Affidavit. Print it out, take it to your local police and file a police report. The FTC says the affidavit may help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report, halt collections actions that result from the theft, and obtain information from companies about any accounts fraudulently opened or misused as a result of the identity theft.

The effects of identity theft can last for a long time, so it’s important to continue monitoring your credit report, even after you’ve resolved the initial identity theft.