Identity theft is a crime, with serious consequences for the victims. Identity theft involves the theft of data or information that lets one person assume the identity of someone else. Often, a thief uses your name, address, Social Security number (SSN), bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information without your knowledge to open accounts, take funds from your existing accounts, or commit fraud. Often, identity theft is perpetrated by ex-partners, relatives, and other acquaintances with access to your personal data. However, it can also result from data being hacked by a stranger.
How Frequent Is Identity Theft?
In 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) reported that consumers lost $5.8 billion dollars due to identity theft fraud in 2021, an increase of 70% over the previous year. The FTC received fraud reports from more than 2.8 million consumers that year, with the most commonly reported type of fraud being imposter scams, followed by online shopping scams.
Common Examples of Identity Theft
- Opening Accounts In Your Name: This occurs when a thief takes advantage of a person with good credit by using their personal information to create new accounts. These can include credit card accounts, bank accounts, utility accounts, and cell phone accounts.
- Draining Existing Accounts: In these cases, an individual uses another person’s existing personal and financial information for their own gain. This can include the use of existing credit cards or withdrawals from established bank accounts or prepaid debit cards.
- False Identification: In some instances, a person committing a crime or trying to obtain medical or other services will falsely identify themselves as someone else, typically with the use of fake ID.
What Are Some Signs That I’ve Been a Victim?
If you have experienced any of the following, it is possible that you have been a victim of identity theft:
- Unknown credit accounts are showing up on your credit report
- You have been receiving mail or pre-approved credit offers with someone else’s name at your home or office
- Companies that you have not done business with or applied to for credit have been looking at your credit report
- Debt collectors have started sending you collection notices for accounts you do not have
- Your credit report lists an alias name or address that you have never used
- You have received bills, statements, or other account information in the mail for accounts you didn’t open
- You stopped receiving bills, statements, or other account information for accounts you already have
- Money is withdrawn from your bank account or prepaid debit card without your authorization
What Should I do if I’ve Been a Victim?
If you think you have been the victim of identity theft, your first step is to fill out an Identity Theft Report with the FTC. Using the completed report, you can then file a report with your local police. Simultaneously, you should also contact the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to place a “fraud alert” on your credit file. To place a fraud alert, call one of the following:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
The next step is to inform any bank or credit card that was impacted by the fraud. You need to notify the institution of the fraudulent transactions so that it can open an investigation. This is essential to ensure you are not stuck with any fraudulent charges.
Third, you should improve your online protections. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible. Update your passwords, and make sure that each password is a complex mix of numbers, letters, and symbols.
Lastly, contact an experienced attorney to help you understand your rights and legal options. At the Law Office of Emily Gomez, we have experience helping clients put their financial lives back in order. Call us today at (412) 378-5854, or book a free consultation with us to learn more.