With the rise of technology, identity theft has increased too. Identity theft may take many forms. Identity theft is when your personal information such as your ID or social security number is used by a thief to commit an array of crimes. These may include stealing from you or others, making use of services while remaining anonymous or even using your credit card to make purchases without your knowledge. There are many types of identity theft, all of which occur daily and may have devastating short-term and long-term effects on victims’ lives. Here’s what to do if you have been a victim of identity theft and how to protect yourself in future.
Signs That Your Identity May Have Been Stolen
If your personal details have been stolen you may notice:
- Unexplainable withdrawals from your bank account
- New accounts charged to your name
- Debt collectors calling you for debt that you have no knowledge of making
- Notice from your medical insurer that you have reached your benefits limit
- More than one tax return filed under your name
How To Minimize The Damage
Due to the nature of identity theft, the faster you respond the better. The appropriate response will depend on the type of identity theft that occurred, but there are steps that should be followed in all instances. If your identity has in fact been stolen, it is important to take the following steps:
Contact The Relevant Institutions
If you noticed that a charge took place without your knowledge, contact the relevant company, your bank and any other linked account’s fraud department. Explain that you have been a victim of identity theft and are taking the necessary steps to protect your identity from fraudulent transactions. Ask the company to freeze your accounts until the matter has been resolved. Contacting the company involved might not only spare you future financial loss, but may also protect other consumers as the company will be more alert to future irregularities.
Contact One Of The Credit Bureaus
When contacting one of the credit bureaus, request that a free 90-day fraud alert be placed on your credit file. It forces companies to contact you to verify your information before any new account can be opened or new credit may issued using your personal details. The alert may be placed by alerting one of the credit bureaus. You will receive a letter confirming that the alert has been placed and you may renew the alert after 90 days, if you wish to do so.
Contact The Police
Contact your local police and open a case file relaying all the information about the theft of your identity. The police may not necessarily find the culprits, but opening a case file will assist with your insurance applications and it will also be required should you wish to take legal action.
How To Protect Yourself In Future
Start by updating your anti-malware. Doing so will ensure that you will receive adequate protection from most phishing sites. If your anti-malware is outdated hackers have a greater chance of accessing your personal details used when shopping or paying bills online. They can access this information without your knowledge or permission. You can also make sure that you aware of your online presence by limiting auto-save when transacting online.
Protecting yourself against identity theft starts with awareness. If you are aware of the prevalence of online crime and how these crimes occur and act in accordance with the knowledge you have, you stand a greater chance of being safe from identity thieves.