Has Your Personal Information Been Compromised, but Not Yet Misused?
Having your information lost or stolen can be a frightening experience, and you may worry about how the information may be misused if it falls into the wrong hands. You might be in this situation if, for example, your wallet was stolen; you responded to a phishing email; or you were notified that a company experienced a data breach and lost some of your data. Fortunately, if your data may have been accessed without authorization, there are steps you can take to detect misuse that has already occurred and to help prevent potential future misuse.
Stay Alert for the Signs of Identity Theft:
- accounts you didn’t open and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.
- fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit reports, including accounts and personal information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers.
- failing to receive bills or other mail. Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
- receiving credit cards 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.
How Do You Find Out if Your Identity Was Stolen?
- You may find out when bill collection agencies contact you for overdue debts you never incurred.
- You may find out when you apply for a mortgage or car loan and learn that problems with your credit history are holding up the loan.
- You may find out when you get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held.
Monitor Your Important Financial Documents.
- Check up on your financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking closely for charges you did not make.
- Get a copy of your credit report. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and how you pay your bills. The law requires each of the major nationwide consumer reporting agencies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. To order a copy of your credit report visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Once you get your reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain. Check that information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed.