It can be difficult to tell when fraudulent accounts are opened in your name. However, eventually, most credit in your name will show up on your credit reports sooner or later. That’s why it’s so important to continuously monitor your credit reports, so you’ll be more likely to take notice if any significant changes to your credit appears that you don’t recognise.
One of the scariest and perhaps infuriating moments is learning that someone has opened a credit card or several credit cards in your name, maxed them out, and left your credit history in shambles. Unfortunately, many people don’t learn about fraudulent accounts until they try to apply for a credit card or loan and are denied because of a past due balance for an account they didn’t know they had.
There are certain signs that you should be on the lookout for that are red flags for identity theft. If you learn that someone has in fact opened a credit card in your name without your permission, there are steps that you can take to rectify the situation and clear up the account as well as your credit history.
Signs you’ve had a credit card opened in your name
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest.
Clues that someone has stolen your information:
- You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain
- You don’t get your bills or other mail
- Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours
- You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report
- Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use
- Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit
- A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have
- You are notified that more than one tax return was filed in your name or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for
- You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account
Steps to take to rectify your identity theft:
Contact the fraud department
Find out the name of the credit card issuer for the unauthorised account and have the account closed. Let the credit card issuer know that the account is not yours. The credit card issuer may ask for further proof, like a police report.
Beware of any phone calls you receive from your credit card issuer’s “fraud department.” This could be a scammer who’s trying to get you to give up personal information they can use to commit fraud.
Note your liability for fraudulent charges
If someone opens a credit card in your name without your permission, you’re not responsible for charges made on that card. But, you have to take action to be sure you’re not held liable. Report the fraud in a timely manner and provide any proof the credit card issuer requests.
Check your credit report to catch any other fraud
There may be more than one fraudulently opened account that you don’t know about. Check your credit reports in order to establish if any other accounts may have been opened in your name.
If you do suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, a credit report will give you an indication of the damages that the fraudster has caused to your credit score. In order to catch the theft early enough, make sure that you constantly check your credit score so that you stay informed about your credit history.
File a police report
If you know who opened these accounts, you can have that person prosecuted. Even if you can’t confirm who opened up the fraudulent account, you should still file a police report. The police report will be critical in getting the accounts closed and removed from your credit report.
Dispute fraudulent accounts with credit bureaus
Send a copy of your police report to the bureaus as proof that the fraudulent accounts aren’t yours. Without this document, the credit bureaus may not remove the fraudulent accounts from your credit report even though they aren’t actually yours.
Confirm these accounts have been removed from your credit report. Once you receive your credit report, review it again to make sure the fraudulent accounts have been removed. Repeat the dispute process if the accounts haven’t been removed from your credit report.
How can future fraud be prevented?
Identity theft is unfortunately a sad reality of today’s world and there’s no way to completely prevent it. However, there are a few options you can consider to make this and other types of fraud less likely to happen.
Place a freeze on your credit accounts
This will ensure that nobody can open up new credit in your name, which can be helpful if you aren’t sure exactly how identity thieves accessed your information. It’s important to remember that credit freezes take some time so you should do your homework and give yourself plenty of time in the event you want to unfreeze them so you can apply for new credit. Alternatively, you can place a fraud alert on your accounts, which requires businesses to contact you to verify your identity before issuing new credit.
Shred all mail, receipts, and other paperwork
Pre-approved credit card offers, old bills, receipts from purchases, etc. are all loaded with personal information that can be used by a savvy thief to apply for credit in your name. Make it a practice to destroy all paperwork before tossing it out so it can’t be used. A cross-cut shredder is the best tool for the job, as it ensures that the remaining pieces can’t be reassembled once they’ve been shredded.
Monitor your statements and the personal information you give out
Review your credit card statements carefully. Make sure you recognise the merchants, locations, and purchases listed before paying the bill. If you don’t need or use retail store account cards or bank-issued credit cards, consider closing the accounts.
The golden rule: Always be on the safe side
Continually monitoring your credit by ordering your credit reports through MarisIT is essential when it comes to catching and clearing up instances of identity theft. The sooner you become aware of the fact that you have become a victim of identity theft, the sooner you can prevent any inconveniences, like preventions from taking out investments, etc. Always be on the safe side and protect your one of a kind identity.