If your identity is stolen, a criminal may use your personal information to open loans or credit cards in your name or they may make multiple purchases using your existing credit accounts. Either way, they can make a mess of your credit history. If you think identity theft is something that only happens to other people or if you really don’t know much about identity theft, it’s time for Dovly 101: Let’s Talk Identity Theft.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
In today’s world, most people frequently make purchases online from a computer, tablet, or cellphone. While many of your transactions are secure, criminals both online and offline are constantly looking for ways to get a hold of your personal identifying information. Some ways your personal information may be stolen include:
- Malware or spyware on your computer
- Lost or stolen wallet containing personal information
- Credit card theft
- Mail theft
- Cell phone theft
- Unsecure browsing on public Wi-Fi
- Data breaches, which means that a thief gained access to data from an organization, and this can affect hundreds or thousands of people
- ATM overlays, which are devices that are placed inside an ATM or gas pump terminal that can capture your personal information.
Crooks are always looking for new ways to get the personal information of other people. They may send emails that look legitimate but that are really an effort to get you to click on a link and provide personal information. This is known as phishing. They may also call you while pretending to be one of your creditors or a legitimate business, and they may provide part of your identifying information to make you think they must be who they say they are, while they try to get you to provide information that they don’t have, such as your social security number, PIN or security code.
What Happens if Your Information is Stolen?
A thief that has your personal information has the power to do a variety of things that can harm you. Examples include:
- Open credit cards or loans in your name
- Make purchases using your credit card information
- Obtain cash from your bank accounts
- File medical claims against your health insurance
- Steal your tax refund
Thieves that have obtained your information may sell it to other thieves. They may also use your child’s identifying information to obtain credit.
Signs Your Identity Has Been Stolen
There are several warning signs of possible identity theft. These include:
- Getting a bill for something you didn’t buy
- Getting calls or letters from a collection agency for unpaid bills that aren’t yours
- Missing account statements
- Getting a notice that more than one tax return was filed with your personal information
If a criminal gets ahold of your bank information, you may also notice withdrawals from your account that you didn’t authorize. For many people, the first sign that their identity has been stolen is when they get a notice that they have been turned down for a loan or credit card they did not apply for.
The Impact of Being a Victim of Identity Theft
How long identity theft affects your life depends on how soon you find out about it. If you don’t regularly check your credit report for accuracy, thieves can accumulate a lot of debt in your name while you’re not looking, which may take a lot of time to straighten out. Once extensive damage has been done to your credit, it can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for you and your family.
Being a victim of identity theft can make it difficult or impossible to get a loan or mortgage. It can also hurt your job prospects since potential employers may pull a credit report. It can slow down your tax refund or increase your insurance premiums.
What to Do if You’re a Victim of Identity Theft
Once you realize your identity has been stolen, take action right away. Steps to take include:
- Check your credit reports from all three credit bureaus to see what’s on there that doesn’t belong to you.
- You may want to have a fraud alert placed on your credit report. Contact one of the credit reporting agencies, and they will contact the others. A fraud alert lets potential creditors know that they need to take extra steps to verify your identity.
- If there’s been fraudulent activity on an existing credit card account, contact the creditor to freeze the account. Your existing credit card will be replaced with a card with a different account number.
File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov. You may also want to contact your local law enforcement agency to report what happened.
Things to Do to Protect Yourself from Having Your Identity Stolen
It’s a good idea to be proactive about doing what you can to protect your identity. Stay mindful of the fact that thieves want to steal your information. Shred documents that have personal information on them. Don’t access bank accounts when using public Wi-Fi, and don’t click on links from your email. Create passwords that are hard to guess and protect your PIN number. Keep an eye on your credit reports and your bank accounts and take action right away if something doesn’t look right.
Repairing Your Credit
Dovly’s automated credit repair engine can make the process of disputing fraudulent items easier for you. When you select the items that need to be disputed on your credit report and let us know, we’ll go to work getting inaccurate items removed from your credit report. Dovly runs on autopilot, and we can let you know right away if there are changes to your credit. Get in touch with Dovly today to find out more about how we can help you rebuild your credit after identity theft.