Did you know that in 2020 there were 1.4 million reports of identity theft? According to Mint.com, credit card fraud accounted for 393,207 of the nearly 1.4 million reports of identity theft.
Below is a story of how a Red Crown member was a victim of credit identity theft.
Our member received an email about opening a new line of credit from a credit card company. He became concerned about the email because he did not open a line of credit. His first step was to check his credit on an app. It showed the line of credit was open at Wells Fargo. He then called Wells Fargo’s Dispute Center and found out that he was a victim of credit identity theft.
An investigation showed that the criminal opened a line of credit at a furniture store. He created a fake license with the member’s information and knew his personal information. Luckily, the member was smart enough to know something was wrong and then followed the appropriate steps before it did any real damage to his finances.
Credit identity theft can happen when someone steals your personal information; driver’s license, social security number (SSN), birth date, and card information. You may fall victim to this type of theft without evening knowing. Some warning signs are: your credit score has changed, there are accounts on your credit report you did not open, and if collectors start calling you.
If you have fallen victim to credit identity theft, below are some things you should do:
You should be monitoring your credit report to look for signs of fraud before there is a lot of damage. USA.gov suggests checking your credit report once per year. A free site you can use is annualcreditreport.com and a free app is Credit Karma.
Contact Credit Card Issuers Fraud Department
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said the first step is to contact the company where the fraud took place. Once you know the company, call their fraud department or dispute center. They will be able to guide you on what to do next.
Credit Fraud Alert
Your next step is placing a fraud alert on your credit report. The FTC says that a fraud alert will make it harder for someone to open a new credit account in your name. For example, a business must verify your identity before they open new credit in your name.
You can place a fraud alert on your credit reports once per year – free of charge. The credit bureaus are:
- Experian: 888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 800-680-7289
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
You can place a credit freeze on your credit report. When you place a freeze, no one (including you) will be able to open a new credit account. This freeze will last until you remove it.
A great precaution is to step up alerts on your accounts. The type of alerts you can receive depends on the financial institution. Some examples are minimum withdrawal alerts, log-in monitoring, etc.
Make sure you change your passwords regularly. When creating a password, make it unique and not used for other accounts. The more complex the password is, the harder it is for identity thieves to guess it.
If you have fallen victim to identity theft, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/ or by phone at 1-877-438-4338. You should follow their recommended steps to make a recovery plan.
*Red Crown Credit Union is not a financial planner or advisor, and this blog gives general ideas on how to prevent identity theft. Individual results may vary.