It’s not easy to recover from identity theft. An ounce of prevention is worth many, many pounds of cure in this case, which is why earlier this week TracSoft posted about “Simple Steps For Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft.” We advised readers to keep track of their personal information, monitor their accounts regularly, and use technology to protect themselves from identity thieves.
But even if you’re really careful, your private information can still become compromised. It’s challenging to keep up with the latest security measures, and we can’t fully control how well our data is protected by companies we do business with. In fact, in 2019 alone there were 1,473 separate data breaches, exposing around 146 million records. As more and more of our data is stored online by businesses and organizations, it becomes harder for us to protect ourselves.
So what if you’ve already become a victim of identity theft? How would you know, and what steps should you take to recover your identity? Here are some tips on preparing for and recovering from identity theft.
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Warning Signs Of Identity Theft
One of the more common ways people realize they’ve become victims of identity fraud is when they notice unexpected charges on their bank or credit card statements. Sometimes the charges are thousands of dollars. Other times, the charges are small, even less than a dollar, because a thief is testing to see if the card works. Small charges are more likely to be missed and it can be tempting to ignore them, but they’re definitely worth investigating if you think you did not make them.
Unexpected Health Insurance Claims
A similar warning sign is if your health insurance company lists claims or benefits you don’t recognize on your statement of benefits. Health care fraud is a growing type of identity theft, and it can be difficult to detect until well after it has occurred.
Bills With Incorrect Addressee Information
Sometimes criminals create a fake identity by stealing and assembling personal information from multiple victims. For instance, they might use one person’s name, but another person’s social security number, another person’s birthday, and so on. If you begin receiving bills that list your home address but have another person’s name, this might be a sign of identity theft. Similarly, if you receive bills addressed to you, but details like the spelling of your name, date of birth, or social security number are wrong, it’s worth contacting the biller to determine why you are receiving these bills.
Unexpected Or Inappropriate Bills For Senior Adults
Identity theft is a crime that can affect people of any age. Becoming a victim of identity theft is not necessarily a sign of senility or being out of touch. However, older adults are often targets of identity theft scams because of the wealth, credit, and equity they have built up over time. If a senior begins receiving unexpected bills or bills for products or services that seem age-inappropriate, it might be a sign of identity theft.
Bills Addressed To Underage Children
Another type of identity theft that is on the rise is child identity theft, where criminals use a child’s social security number or other private information to open credit cards or bank accounts. Sometimes child identity theft isn’t detected until the child is old enough to open accounts for themselves. One sign a child’s identity might have been used by identity thieves is if the child begins receiving credit card offers or bills in their name.
Keep A File To Jump-start Your Recovery
Although it’s impossible to completely protect yourself from identity theft, one thing you can do is plan ahead for times when your personal information may become compromised. This file should include important documents that could be lost or stolen, as well as documentation of any cases of fraud you experience.
Examples of documents you should keep in your identity protection file include copies of important documents in your wallet, such as your driver’s license or state ID, insurance cards, debit cards, and credit cards. This way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you have your personal information available when you call to cancel your cards.
Other documents you should save include notices you receive whenever your information is involved in data breaches. These notices can be useful later if you find suspicious activity on your accounts and need to contest it. (If you do receive notices about data breaches involving your debit or credits cards, you should go ahead and request that your bank or credit card company issue you new cards as soon as possible.)
How And Where To Report Identity Theft
If you do become a victim of identity theft, it’s important to act quickly. The first step is to contact your bank, credit card company, or other biller to address the suspicious activity. Sometimes suspicious charges turn out to be charges we forgot that we made or they may appear differently in billing than we expected. Other times, companies will reverse charges, deactivate compromised accounts, and issue new cards and account numbers for you
However, if you cannot resolve the dispute with your biller or you believe the fraud you’ve experienced is more extensive, then you should report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission and begin building a recovery plan on their website. Another important step is to freeze your credit. You can do this by contacting each of the credit reporting bureaus individually. The FTC provides a list of these credit bureaus here.
Another good move is to contact the Identity Theft Resource Center (888-400-5530). This nonprofit resource helps victims of identity theft for free through education and case resolution. Their interactive help center will guide you to the specific kind of identity theft resources for your situation and offer assistance to help you recover your identity.
Act Quickly To Recover From Identity Theft
Protecting yourself from identity theft can feel impossible. However, there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of this kind of fraud. By securing your personal information, regularly reviewing your accounts, and putting technology to work, you can lessen the effects of any data breaches you might experience.
If you discover your personal information is used fraudulently, there are resources to help you recover from identity theft. The key is to keep copies of important documents, recognize the fraud early, and report fraud quickly to minimize the impact
And if you’re worried about protecting your company’s sensitive data information data breaches, consider 24/7 security monitoring from TracSoft. With over twenty years of experience protecting our clients, we have the knowledge and resources to protect your business. Contact us today for a free security assessment and learn how TracSoft can defend you from today’s biggest cybersecurity threats.