- What is Identity Theft
- How Your Identity is Stolen
- How Your Identity is Used
- Detecting Your Stolen Identity
- Recovering from Identity Theft
- Protecting Your Identity
Detecting Your Stolen Identity.
If you are not using an identity protection service like ISS, the best way is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month, and check your credit report on a regular basis. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.
Stay alert for the signs of identity theft, like:
Accounts you didn't open and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.
Fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit reports, including accounts and personal information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers.
Failing to receive bills or other mail. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time.
A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
Receiving credit cards that you didn't apply for.
Being denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason.
Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn't buy.
Unfortunately, many consumers learn they their identity has been stolen after some damage has been done:
You may find out when bill collection agencies contact you for overdue debts debts you never incurred.
You may find out when you apply for a mortgage or car loan and learn that problems with your credit history are holding up the loan.
You may find out when you get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held.
Early detection of a potential identity theft can make a big difference. Keep an eye out for any suspicious activity by routinely monitoring:
Your financial statements. Monitor your financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking closely for charges you did not make.
Your credit reports. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and how you pay your bills. The law requires each of the major nationwide consumer reporting agencies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. To find out, order a copy of your credit reports.
Once you get your reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain. Check that information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. See Correcting Fraudulent Information in Credit Reports to learn how. Continue to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.