Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission. They can buy things with your credit cards, get new credit cards, open a phone, electric or gas account, steal your tax refund, get medical care, etc. The thief can get your personal information in person or online. They might steal your mail or garbage, trick you into sending personal information in an email, steal your information from businesses or medical offices.
In 2016 an estimated 15.4 million consumers were victims of identity theft. Fraud losses totaled 16 billion dollars. About 1 in every 16 adults were victims of identity theft. The implementation of EMV (Europay, MasterCard® & Visa®) chip is reducing thieves from duplicating credit cards. Counterfeit credit cards are down 52%.
If someone uses your personal or financial information, follow these steps.
Step 1: Call the companies (fraud department) where you know fraud occurred – explain that someone stole your identity. Ask them to close or freeze the accounts. Then, no one can add new charges unless you agree. Also change logins, passwords and PINS for your accounts.
Step 2: Place a fraud alert and get your credit reports. A fraud alert on your credit report notifies lenders and creditors who pull your report to take additional steps to verify your identification before they extend a credit line or loan in your name. This can help prevent a thief from opening any new accounts in your name and reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumers may place fraud alerts on their credit reports with the three major credit bureaus, free of charge. The bureau you contact is required to notify the other two credit bureaus to place an alert on your file. You will get a letter from each credit bureau confirming they placed a fraud alert on your file.
Contact one of the three credit bureaus:
Get your credit reports from all three credit reporting bureaus at annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228 and review all your reports.
Step 3 Report your identity theft to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) at IdentityTheft.gov or 877-438-4338
It is important to report identity theft to the FTC and get your report because it guarantees you certain rights:
- Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report
- Place a seven-year extended fraud alert on your credit report
- Get free copies of your credit report
- Get fraudulent information removed (or blocked) from your credit report
- Dispute fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit report
- Stop creditors and debt collectors from reporting fraudulent account
- Get copies of documents related to the identity theft
- Stop a debt collector from contacting you
Based on the information you enter on IdentityTheft.gov or give when you call 877-438-4338 an Identity Theft Report and Recovery Plan will be created. For more detailed information about what to do after completing Step 3 go to www.IdentityTheft.gov/Steps.
The Savvy Consumer is a monthly article written by Meg McAlpine, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with University of Florida, Nassau County Extension Service. Ms. McAlpine provides research and fact based information in the following areas: Nutrition and Health, Human Development, Family/Individual finances and Health Care (Medicare, Medicaid). She can be reached at 904-530-6359 or firstname.lastname@example.org