Identity theft can happen to anyone. Since more people are going online to shop, bank, or file their taxes, there is an increased risk for thieves to steal personal information from consumers. Even if you are careful, a thief can obtain your information by hacking into systems of businesses, as millions of people learned last year with the Equifax data breach. Cyber breaches increased in 2016 with most of the breaches impacting the medical and health care organizations, educations, and government. There have been over 1,000 breaches exposing millions of records. Stolen information can sell for more than $30 on the black market according to CNN. However, in time and frustration alone, it will cost a victim much more than that. Stolen information allows thieves to open bank accounts, lines of credit, new credit cards, get a driver’s license, file taxes to steal your refund and more. What can you do if you find out your information has been compromised?
As we have seen, you may not know if you are the victim of a breach until you hear about it on the news. The first thing you should do if you suspect you are a victim is to check your credit with the major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You are able to access your credit report for free annually at annualcreditreport.com. If you have already accessed your credit report this year, you may have to pay a fee.
Although credit card microchips have curtailed counterfeiting, thieves have become focused on opening new accounts with stolen information. If you learn your information has been compromised, here are some steps to take to regain control of your information. In every situation, you will want to continue to check your credit report and report any additional unauthorized activity.
- If you have become a victim of identity theft you can also place a fraud alert on your credit file to warn creditors that your identity was stolen. This will prompt them to verify the identity of anyone looking to get credit in your name.
- Next, monitor your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized activity. Review your charges and if you see activity that does not belong to you report it to your credit company. You may also want to put a freeze on your credit file. This makes it more difficult for a thief to use your info to open a new account in your name; however, it won’t prevent them from make changes to your current credit accounts. The freeze lasts until you remove it.
- If your bank account information is compromised, contact your bank to close your account and open a new one. Monitor your debit card activity and report any fraudulent charges.