How to Rapidly Spot Identity Theft

How to Rapidly Spot Identity Theft

#CreditMatters: ID Theft Protection

What do you do if your identity is stolen? Identity theft occurs when someone steals your identity to commit fraud.


You might find yourself asking three questions?

  1. How did this happen?
  2. Why did they steal my identity?
  3. What will they do with my identity?

Most Common Ways Thieves Use a Stolen Identity

Stealing your identity could mean using personal information without your permission, such as:

  • Your name
  • Social Security number
  • Credit card number

When identity thieves get access to your identity, they use it in ways some of us would never think of. They may:

  • Make fraudulent purchases
  • Open new credit cards in your name
  • Rent apartments or start other accounts in your name
  • Open new phone and utility accounts in your name
  • Clone your ATM or Debit Card
  • Change your billing address
  • Obtain a new driver’s license or official ID
  • Use your identity when questioned by police

You may not find out about the theft until you review your bank and credit card statement and notice accounts you didn’t open, charges you didn’t make, or until you’re contacted by a debt collector.

Even a small charge amount can be a sign of fraud, so pay close attention to any charges you didn’t make, in addition to accounts you don’t recognize.

Active Duty Service Members should also monitor their credit carefully.


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What is Identity Theft?

Sometimes criminals who steal data use it to engage in identity theft. Therefore, it’s essential first to understand what identity theft is.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission and pretends to be you to commit fraud.

Identity thieves may attempt to use your credit cards or attempt to access your accounts.



Keep An Eye Out For Identity Theft

If you see anything out of the ordinary on your financial statements or billing statements, no matter how small, you should take action immediately. 

Look closely for charges you did not make. Even a small amount can be a danger sign.

Thieves sometimes will take a small amount from your checking account and then return to take much more if the small debit goes unnoticed.

Review your statements from credit card companies or banks and credit unions and check your credit reports for suspicious activity on a regular basis.



Carefully Examine Your Credit Reports

Suspicious changes in your credit report are one of the first indications that your information may have been compromised

Review your free credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus.

If an identity thief is opening financial accounts in your name, these accounts may show up on your credit report. Look for:

  • Inquiries from companies you’ve never contacted
  • Accounts you didn’t open
  • Wrong amounts on your accounts
  • Be sure your personal information—like your Social Security number, address, name or initials, and employers—is correct.

Warning: Don’t ignore bills from people you don’t know. 

A bill on a debt you never borrowed may indicate that someone else has opened an account in your name. Contact the creditor immediately to find out.


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Equifax Data Breach Class Action Settlement

On June 3, 2021, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the $425 million Equifax class action settlement.

Equifax has agreed to pay at least $380.5 million to resolve class action claims associated with their massive 2017 data breach.

The settlement will benefit any of the estimated 147 million people affected by the September 2017 Equifax data breach.

In 2017, the largest data breach of personal and financial information in American history occurred, involving almost half of the country’s population. 

Current Claim Form Deadline is January 22, 2024 for extended claims. Up to $20,000 in reimbursement for expenses, including time spent remedying fraud (up to 20 hours at $25 per hour), out-of-pocket expenses, and the cost of credit monitoring (up to 25 percent of these costs). More Information at Top Class Actions.


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7 Signs of Fraud or Identity Theft to Look For:

  1. Money is Missing From Your Bank Account
  2. Suspicious Debit/Credit Card Charges
  3. Bills That You Used to Get Are No Longer Being Delivered to You
  4. Accounts on Your Credit Reports That You Didn’t Open
  5. Incorrect Personal Information on Your Credit Reports
  6. Credit Inquiries From Companies You’ve Never Contacted
  7. Wrong Amounts Showing on Your Accounts in Your Credit Reports


Check Your Children’s Credit Report

Your children may have a credit report because they are listed as authorized users or joint account holders on an adult’s account or any time a lender reports a credit account for that individual.

Or your child may have a report because he or she is a victim of identity theft.

If you are the parent or guardian of a minor and you think your child’s information has been compromised, here are some steps from the FTC you can take to protect their information from fraudulent use.

In addition, if you think you or your child’s identity has already been stolen, you can follow checklists and additional steps provided by the FTC to begin recovering from a case of identity theft. 


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Activate Fraud Alerts

A fraud alert requires creditors who check your credit report to take steps to verify your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional card, or increasing the credit limit on an existing account based on a consumer’s request.

When you place a fraud alert on your credit report at one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, it must notify the others.

There are two main types of fraud alerts: Initial fraud alerts and Extended alerts.


  • An initial fraud alert requires that the creditor take reasonable steps to make sure the person making a new credit request in your name is actually you. If you provide a telephone number, the lender must call you or take reasonable steps to verify whether you are the person making the credit request.
  • When you place an initial fraud alert in your file, you’re entitled to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies. 
  • An extended alert is good for 7 years. An extended alert requires that the creditor contact you in person or through the telephone number or other contact method you designate to verify whether you are the person making the credit request.

Put a Security Freeze on Your Credit File

Under a new federal law effective September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit record for free at the three nationwide credit reporting companies—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax—no matter what state you live in.  

A security freeze, also called a credit freeze, stops new creditors from accessing your credit file and others from opening accounts in your name until you lift the freeze.

The federal law requiring free security freezes does not apply to someone who requests your credit report for employment, tenant screening, or insurance purposes.


  • Unlike fraud alerts, if you place a security freeze with one credit reporting company, they will not notify the other credit reporting companies.
  • You must contact each credit reporting company individually if you would like to place a security freeze with all three nationwide credit reporting companies. 
  • Because most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking your credit report, a freeze can stop identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name.
  • Be mindful that a freeze doesn’t prevent identity thieves from taking over existing accounts.

Your credit report is like a report card of your entire financial history.

Your credit score is one of the most valuable financial tools you have in life.


7 Ways to Protect Your Personal Information From Being Misused

1) Change your passwords for all of your financial accounts and consider changing the passwords for your other accounts as well. Be sure to create strong passwords and do not use the same password for all accounts. Don’t use information such as addresses and birthdays in your passwords. For more tips on how to create strong passwords, read more on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) blog 

2) Read your credit card and bank statements carefully. Look closely for charges you did not make. Even a small charge can be a danger sign. Thieves sometimes will take a small amount from your checking account and then return to take much more if the small debit goes unnoticed.

3) Don’t ignore bills from people you don’t know. A bill on an account you don’t recognize may be an indication that someone else has opened an account in your name. Contact the creditor to find out.

4) Shred any documents with personal or sensitive information. Be sure to keep hard copies of financial information in a safe place and be sure to shred them before getting rid of them. 

5) Set up a Fraud Alert. Fraud alerts require that a financial institution verifies your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional card, or increasing the credit limit on an existing account. A fraud alert won’t prevent lenders from opening new accounts in your name. Still, it will require that the lenders take additional identification verification steps to make sure that you’re making the request. An initial fraud alert only lasts for 90 days, so you may want to watch for when to renew it. You can also set up an extended alert for identity theft victims, which is good for seven years.

6) If you are the parent or guardian of a minor and you think your child’s information has been compromised, here are some steps from the FTC you can take to protect their information from fraudulent use. If you think you or your child’s identity has already been stolen, you can follow checklists and additional steps provided by the FTC to begin recovering from a case of identity theft. 

7) File your taxes as soon as you can. A scammer can use your Social Security number to get a tax refund. You can try to prevent a scammer from using your tax information to file and steal your tax refund by making sure you file before they do. Also, be sure not to ignore any official letters from the IRS and reply as soon as possible. The IRS will contact you by mail; don’t provide any information or account numbers in response to calls or emails.



FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Protecting Your Privacy Online – Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information


If You Think You Are a Victim of Identity Theft

The first step to address concerns of fraud or identity theft is to contact the nationwide credit reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax).



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How to Rapidly Spot Identity Theft



What do you do if your identity is stolen? Identity theft occurs when someone steals your identity to commit fraud. You might find yourself asking three questions? How did this happen? Why did they steal my identity? What will they do with my identity? Most Common Ways Thieves Use a Stolen Identity Stealing your identity…