ACCC discusses helpful tips consumers can use to identify suspicious activity and reduce identity theft.
Boston, MA – August 10, 2017
The loss or theft of personal information can be a terrifying experience, and it’s only natural for consumers to worry about how this data may be used should it fall into the wrong hands. Fortunately, if data has been accessed without authorization, there are plenty of steps a consumer can take to detect misuse that has already occurred and to help prevent potential future misuse. To lessen the occurrence of identity theft, national nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling has laid out ways consumers can identify suspicious activity.
“Not knowing how your information can be used if it falls into the wrong hands is a frightening thought, which is why it is important to stay alerted and know what to look for,” said Steve Trumble, President, and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling, based in Newton, MA. “Unfortunately there are many ways consumers may find themselves at risk. You can find yourself in this situation if your wallet is stolen, you responded to a phishing email, or you were notified that a company experienced a data breach and lost some of your data.”
According to Javelin Strategy Research, identity theft hit a record high of 15.4 million U.S. victims in 2016. This is a 16 percent increase from the 13.1 million victims in 2015. The study also found that despite efforts to lessen identity theft, fraud losses rose to $16 billion, up from $15.3 billion in 2015.
American Consumer Credit Counseling offers ways consumers can identify suspicious activity.
1. Stay alert for the signs of identity theft, such as:
- Accounts a consumer didn’t open and debts on the account that can’t be explained.
- Fraudulent or inaccurate information on credit reports, including account and personal information, like Social Security number, addresses, name or employers.
- Failing to receive bills or other mail. It is important to follow up with creditors if bills don’t arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over the account and changed the billing address to cover their tracks.
- Receiving credit cards that a consumer didn’t apply for.
- Being denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high-interest rate, for no reason.
- Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise the consumer never purchased.
2. How do consumers find out if their identity was stolen?
- When bill collection agencies contact the consumer for overdue debts that never incurred.
- When the consumer applies for a mortgage or car loan and learns that problems with their credit history is holding up the loan.
- When the consumer gets something in the mail about an apartment, they never rented, house they never bought or a job they never held.
3. Monitor relevant financial documents.
- Check up on financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking carefully for charges that you never made.
- Get a copy of your credit report. Credit reports contain critical information, including what accounts consumers have and how they pay their bills. The law requires each of the major nationwide consumer reporting agencies to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report at their request every 12 months. If identity theft is opening credit accounts in the consumer’s name, these accounts are likely to show up on the credit report.
- Once consumers receive their reports, they should review them carefully. They should look for inquiries from companies they never contacted, accounts they never opened and debts on the accounts they can’t explain. Check to make sure the Social Security number, addresses, name and employer is correct. If fraudulent or inaccurate information is found, have it removed immediately.
ACCC is a 501(c)3 organization that provides free credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, and housing counseling to consumers nationwide in need of financial literacy education and money management. For more information, contact ACCC:
- For credit counseling, call 800-769-3571
- For bankruptcy counseling, call 866-826-6924
- For housing counseling, call 866-826-7180
- Or visit us online at www.consumercredit.com
About American Consumer Credit Counseling
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit credit counseling 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering consumers to achieve financial management through credit counseling, debt management, bankruptcy counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling and financial education concerning debt solutions. To help consumers reach their goal of debt relief, ACCC provides a range of free consumer personal finance resources on a variety of topics including budgeting, credit and debt management, student loan assistance, youth and money, homeownership, identity theft, senior living, and retirement. Consumers can use ACCC’s worksheets, videos, calculators, and blog articles to make the best possible decisions regarding their financial future. ACCC holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). For more information or to access free financial education resources, log on to ConsumerCredit.com or visit https://www.consumercredit.com/debt-resources-tools/