In most cases of fraud, the victim’s identity is stolen and unauthorized purchases are made. News stories report victims making the discovery after they are thousands of dollars in debt for things they never purchased. There are usually signs before it gets to that point, but you have to know what to look for.
Obtain a copy of your credit report and carefully examine each entry. If you see accounts that you have not opened or applied for, it is an indicator of possible fraud in your name. You are entitled by law to get a free credit report each year. Click here to obtain one.
Check the past few credit card statements that have arrived. Match the open accounts on your credit report to the recent bills in email/mail. Identity thieves might open accounts in your name and social security number, but have the bills sent elsewhere to keep you from finding out about them.
Video: Credit Card Fraud in action
Examine your bank statement as well as credit card statements. Many people pay the bill without really looking at it. Take the time to examine each purchase to be sure it is yours. Perpetrators of fraud may have your credit card information and order things online. All they have to do is change the “Ship To” address to get the merchandise while the bill goes to your house.
Watch for delinquent notices. If collection agencies call you about accounts you don’t recognize that is obviously a sign that you have been a victim of fraud, but it might be less obvious too. If you have a VISA credit card in your name, and someone opens another VISA credit card in your name but does not pay the bill, you can get caught in the middle. Rather than ignore late notices, figuring it is a clerical error, get out your card and compare the card number/account number to what is listed on the bill. Contact the company any time there is a collection notice that you didn’t earn, but by checking the card/account number against the numbers on the bill, you can point the authorities in the right direction about what happened.
What to Do
The following steps are important if you have been the victim of fraud. Taking all of them ensures you have protected as many facets of your finances as possible.
File a police report. Go into your local police station and request a report be taken. Be prepared to provide evidence that you have discovered such as unauthorized purchases, accounts in your name that you didn’t open or forged checks on your bank account. Request a copy of the report and from that copy make a few more to provide to creditors requesting them.
Ask all banks where you hold accounts to close those accounts and reopen new ones. This includes canceling credit and debit cards and issuing new ones. When they arrive, be sure to choose different PINs than you used before. The bank might ask you to complete an affidavit stating your identity has been compromised.
Call the provider of all credit cards. This can be regular VISA or MasterCard, department store cards, gas company cards or others. Ask them to immediately freeze the accounts and issue new cards. Follow their directions with regards to sending police reports, etc. to them.
Contact Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. Ask that your credit reports be flagged. Submit a victim statement to them. This is extremely important. It can be simple such as: My social security number/driver license numbers have been used to apply for fraudulent credit accounts. Please call XXX-XXX-XXXX to verify all credit applications.”
Click here or call 1-888-766-0008 to set up a fraud alert at Equifax.
Click here or call 800-680-7289 to set up a fraud alert at Trans Union.
Click here or call 1 888 397 3742 to set up a fraud alert at Experian.
Final thoughts: Becoming a victim of fraud can be stressful and time consuming. Protecting yourself on the front end by guarding PIN numbers and account information can reduce your risk. If it does happen, the above steps will help you resolve the issue.