Identity thieves can wreak havoc on a victim’s life. Depending on what personal information they get ahold of, they could empty your bank account, open new accounts in your name, max out your credit cards, claim your tax refund or even use your health insurance to get medical treatment.
So, how can you tell if your personal information has been stolen? IdentityTheft.gov, a resource from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), offers 10 warning signs to look out for:
- You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
- You don’t get your bills or other mail.
- Merchants refuse your checks.
- Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
- You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
- Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
- Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit, or a health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
- You get denied a loan based on bad credit although you know your credit record is strong.
- The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
- You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
If you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, the FTC recommends taking these three steps right away:
Step 1: Call the companies where you know fraud occurred. Ask them to close or freeze the accounts so no one can add new charges unless you agree. Change logins, passwords and PINs for your accounts.
Step 2: Place a free, one-year fraud alert by contacting one of the three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. That company must tell the other two. Also, review your credit reports for any account or transaction you don’t recognize.
Step 3: Report identity theft to the FTC. An identity theft report will prove to businesses that someone stole your identity and guarantees you certain rights. You may also choose to file a report with your local police department.
For more identity theft recovery advice, as well as prevention tips, visit IdentityTheft.gov.