The Identity Theft Resource Center maintains a wealth of information for ID theft victims in the form of Fact Sheets which can be found on the ITRC website. These sheets cover a range of topics in various areas of cybercrime, fraud, and scams, as well as outline exactly what the nature of the crime is and what steps you can take if you’ve been a victim. One of these sheets, ITRC Fact Sheet 100 – Financial Identity Theft: The Beginning Steps, helps consumers who have had their financial identities stolen.
What does financial identity theft involve?
Financial identity theft occurs when someone gains access to your financial information and uses it for their own gain while pretending to be you. The thief could be a stranger who hacked your computer, or could be someone you know who gained access to your personal data at your home. In fact, an overwhelming number of cases of financial identity theft involve friends or family members of the victim who have been able to get their hands on physical documentation and use it without the person’s knowledge.
- Social Security Number: One of the crucial pieces of the puzzle that thieves need when they steal your financial identity is your Social Security number, so it’s important to make sure you safeguard it. Do not enter it on the internet where a hacker could access it, and be sure not to leave it lying around your house where visitors could find it. Remember that this number isn’t only present on your actual Social Security card, but could be found on bills or statements that you haven’t shredded or destroyed.
- Personally identifiable information: Other information that thieves need to steal your financial identity can include your address, your maiden name if you’re a woman, your mother’s maiden name, and your birthdate, all of which is unfortunately very easy for a friend or relative to learn.
If you’ve been the victim of financial identity theft, it’s important to remember that this is a crime and must be reported; even if the thief is someone you know and care about. Your insurance company or credit card issuer may even require a police report before they will consider absolving you of any charges that the thief racked up. Even if it’s unpleasant to think about, a police report is vital to clearing your name and preventing you from being responsible for the bills.
The police report is also important because it entitles you to other protections, such as a long-term freeze or alert on your credit report that will prevent anyone else from opening a line of credit or account in your name; this feature is not free for everyday consumers, but if you’ve been the victim of an identity theft crime it is available without cost, and your police report serves as proof of the crime.
You’ll also be entitled to have the fraudulent accounts removed from your credit score, which is important to maintaining your own financial security. Imagine this: if you know the person who used your identity, and you quietly work out a system where this individual promises to pay you back for the charges, those accounts are still having a tremendous impact on your credit score, especially if the accounts had high balances or went unpaid while you were unaware of them. You could be jeopardizing your ability to take out a loan in the event of an emergency, your ability to have certain elective medical procedures done, the ability to get a new job, and more, all because you didn’t report the crime to the police. With a police report in hand, however, you can have those fraudulent accounts removed from your financial identity, restoring your credit score and your good name.
Once the police report is filed, it’s important to know the extent of the damage—how many accounts were opened and what those balances are—and which organizations to report the information to. The Social Security Administration, for example, does not handle identity theft cases, but there are other entities that can help you (the information can be found on the Fact Sheet for your convenience). You will also need to contact each of the companies where these open accounts are issued in order to resolve the matter and close the accounts, which will again require a police report.
The most important things you can do are to monitor your credit reports carefully following a breach, and maintain great records of correspondence with all of the companies involved. Keep all of the paperwork and documentation you receive in a safe place, and be sure to label everything carefully. Once you’ve begun the process, remember to always safeguard all of your information to prevent this type of crime from happening again.
1.Keep your social security number safe
2.Always report suspicious activity to the police
3.Monitor credit reports
For a look at all of the available ITRC Fact Sheets, go to the website and check out the other resources.
If you think you might be a victim of identity theft or want additional information, please call the ITRC toll-free, 24/7 at 888-400-5530 to speak with a knowledgeable Victim Advisor.