Recently, a family member of mine started receiving calls from various financial institutions to verify his information from his recent credit applications. He never applied for credit from any of these financial institutions. Someone had stolen his identity and was applying for various credit cards and loans in his name. Oddly enough, this particular family member never uses credit for anything so he never felt the need to check his credit report for any errors… until now.
After pulling his free annual credit report through annualcreditreport.com, he discovered various recent inquiries from financial institutions. He discovered he was a victim of social security identity theft. An impostor was using his social security number to apply for credit at various financial institutions. Fortunately for him, there was something wrong with the data the impostor used to apply for credit which prompted representatives from the financial institutions to contact him to confirm the application(s). If those companies had not done so, he would have not been aware of the threat to his credit.
Steps to Take After Identity Theft
If you have been a victim of identity theft, it is important that you take steps immediately to protect your identity.
- Go to https://www.identitytheft.gov to report identity theft.
- Pull your free credit reports through annuallcreditreport.com to determine what errors or credit has been extended in your name that you do not recognize.
- Call the companies where you suspect the fraud has occurred to prevent any credit or additional credit from being extended in your name. If funds were obtained fraudulently in your name the companies will likely want you to complete its fraud form stating that you did not make the transactions or open the account. Make sure you:
- Close any fraudulent accounts opened in your name and dispute bogus charges on valid accounts.
- Place a fraud alert on all three credit reports by doing the following:
- Equifax: Place a 90 Day Fraud Alert on your Equifax credit report. If you have a valid police report or US Postal service mail theft report, you can request to have an Extended Fraud Alert by completing this form and mailing it to: Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348-5069.
- Experian: “Add a fraud alert” and choose whether to place an initial security alert (good for 90 days) or an extended fraud victim alert (good for 7 years) by completing this form and mail it along with a copy of a government issued identification card and one copy of a utility bill, bank or insurance statement to: Experian, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX
- TransUnion: Create an account, if you do not already have one with Transunion, to setup a fraud alert.
- Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which can be done through IdentityTheft.gov website and complete this form based upon the type of identity theft you are experiencing.
- Dispute any fraudulent accounts or data on your credit reports.
Identity theft can come in many different forms. This month, I was a victim of financial identity theft. Someone had used my credit card number to make a large purchase through PayPal. Initially, a small $1 purchase was made by thieves to find out whether the credit card number was valid then they hit my credit card for a larger purchase immediately after that transaction. Fortunately, my credit card company detected this was a fraudulent transaction and they contacted me by phone to determine whether I made that particular transaction. The large transaction was denied and the $1 transaction was disputed. Unfortunately, there is no way to find out who was using my credit card number. I had never allowed anyone access to my credit card but I had made several purchases online. To prevent this type of theft, it is recommended that you use a third party pay service when buying things online (i.e., PayPal, Amazon Pay) to prevent thieves from obtaining your credit card numbers.
Stay diligent this holiday season and always protect your identity.