MCU’s Tips for Consumers Affected by Identity Theft
While you may be taking active steps to protect your personal and account information, new scams and recent data breaches have left millions of Americans vulnerable. To stay proactive in protecting your information, consumers can stay vigilant by keeping an eye out for the following warning signs:
- Receiving a credit card that you didn’t apply for
- Being denied credit or being offered less favorable credit terms like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason
- Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t buy
1. Notify Financial Institutions and Credit Card Companies
If an account or existing credit line has been affected, notifying your financial institution or credit card company should be your first priority and can save you money and a lot of trouble down the road. For example, the Fair Credit Billing Act specifies that your maximum liability for unauthorized charges is $50. However because most credit cards have zero-liability policies, consumers are often protected from having to take on any liability at all.
Consumers can then work with their financial institution or card company to determine the best course of action. This may be as easy as changing login information, passwords or PINs or may require closing accounts or placing a freeze on accounts so changes or charges cannot be made until you agree to them.
2. Monitor all Statements for Suspicious Activity
If you’ve noticed fraud or suspicious activity on one account, it’s very important to check other statements and financial records for other charges or activity you don’t recognize. This includes dormant or infrequently used accounts.
If you find unknown charges, call the financial institutions to alert them of the problem and request the account be locked or closed.
3. Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report
As a consumer, you’re entitled to at least one free credit report from each agency each year, which you can receive through one of the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.
In addition to this report, consumers who believe they may be as risk of fraud can place a fraud alert on their credit report. Placing an alert is not only free but will also make it more difficult for new accounts to be opened in your name. To place an alert you’ll only have to contact one of the three reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion). That company will alert the other two.
A fraud alert can be extended for up to seven years if a consumer provides proof to the credit reporting agencies that they are a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert will notify any institution that pulls your credit report to the fact your identity may be compromised. This will also prompt creditors to take additional steps in verifying your identity should you open any new accounts.
4. Consider Freezing Your Credit
For an extra layer of protection, consumers can also initiate a credit freeze. Like a fraud alert, a credit freeze also typically free for victims of identity theft. And while a credit freeze can be a good way to prevent ongoing fraud, it will likely also make it difficult receive approval for loans or credit cards.
It’s important to note that consumers will have to reach out to credit reporting agency individually to place the freeze.
5. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission
Once you have determined the extent of the fraud, consumers should file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Simply visit IdentityTheft.gov, create an account and Include as many details as possible. Based on the information provided, the FTC will create an identity theft report and recovery and track your progress, and pre-fill forms and letters for you. Your Identity Theft Report is important because it provides evidence of fraud, making it easier to correct discrepancies.
6. File a Police Report
Filing a police report helps identity theft victims gain access to the legal benefits. As a victim of identity theft, you should obtain a detailed police report about your situation. It is important to file detailed reports both locally as well as in the jurisdiction where the fraud occurred.
To file a police report it’s important to provide a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, a government-issued ID with a photo, proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement, or utilities bill) and any other proof of theft ( bills, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notices, etc.).