Each year, millions of citizens in the United States are victims of identity theft. When tallying up the losses suffered by consumers, insurance companies and financial institutions, the numbers are staggering. After obtaining someone else’s personal information, identity thieves have the ability to withdraw money from their bank accounts, open up new credit lines, and conduct other financial transactions in the victim’s name. Because of the stealth nature of this crime, a victim may not realize that their identity has been stolen until finding themselves in a world of debt. After being victimized, restoring one’s credit is a process that can take months or years to complete.
Identity theft often cripples medical insurance consumers as well. This is because insurance companies will often use a person’s credit score to determine whether or not the applicant will be accepted or how to set rates. What makes this even more troubling is the fact that identity thieves will also steal information to file fraudulent claims and receive medical benefits in someone else’s name.
When the malicious crime of identity theft is suspected, it is important to act quickly. The faster you respond, the faster you will be able to restore your life. First you must be able to recognize when this crime has occurred. In order to do so, you should take note of the following warning signs:
• – You begin to receive bills from credit card accounts you did not open
• – You observe unauthorized charges on your bank statements, medical or credit card bills
• – You are contacted by institutions and collection agencies concerning purchases you did not make
• – You are denied for insurance or loans due to unexplained debt on your credit report
• – An institution you do business with notifies you that your personal information has been fraudulently obtained or inadvertently disclosed to someone else
What to Do About Identity Theft
If you are certain that someone has used your information to commit identity theft, you should immediately follow these next steps:
• – File a police report with your local police department. Many banking institutions and credit card agencies will require this documentation to acknowledge that the crime has occurred.
• – Contact the major credit reporting bureaus to have freezes or security alerts assigned to your individual report.
• – Request a copy of your credit report and review the document for suspicious activity.
• – Report any authorized charges from credit and bank accounts to the appropriate institution.
• – Cancel any accounts that have been compromised.
Upon reporting fraud to one of the major credit bureaus, your report will be automatically forwarded to the other two agencies. Each of them will then place a fraud alert on your credit report and send you a copy for review. It is very important that you review your credit report on an annual basis to search for unauthorized activity.
You can contact the major credit reporting bureaus by referring to the information below:
P.O. Box 740241
At, GA 30374-0241
(800) 685-1111 – request report
(800) 525-6285 – report fraud
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-2104
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
(800) 888-4213 – request report
(800) 680-7289 – report fraud