What is Identity Theft ?
January 4, 2020
How bad is identity theft you may ask? Most people who have gone through it will tell you it's an experience they would rather not revisit ever again. They would then follow up with the process they had to go through to get their identity back and secure themselves again.
There is no way to really make your identity impermeable to all possible attacks from fraudsters. To try to protect yourself, you may start by educating yourself on the ways it happens, how to protect your private information, and what to do when you notice something irregular.
How Identity Theft Occurs
Identity Theft is when someone steals any personal information like your Social Security number to either open new accounts in your name, make fraudulent purchases on your credit cards, and commit any type of fraud in your name.
Your report should always be watched in case you are a possible victim of identity theft. If you see it, you can respond quickly to mitigate any potential harm that can occur to your financial information.
Our experts can help you with the problems caused by Identity Theft. We can help you dispute accounts and freeze your credit reports. Call today or sign up online for a Free Consultation.
8 Ways Identity Theft Happens:
1. Credit Card Theft: One of the easiest ways most thieves try to gain access to your accounts is by using your credit card information. When you receive your statements you will more than likely find charges that are unknown to you.
Credit card information can be stolen from data breaches, credit card skimmers, physically stolen, gas pumps, unprotected online retail merchants, and fraudulent websites.
2. WiFi Hacking: In airports, restaurants, or coffee shops, one is able to use a free public WiFi hot spot. Through these WiFi hot spots, hackers are able to steal your most important, private information from your mobile devices. Thieves are able to follow you as you surf the web and they can save your login credentials for various accounts and even your social security number, if you enter it while using their network.
3. Card Skimming: Skimming devices are placed over a gas pump card reader or an ATM machine and they are able to read your bank cards' information. Usually the skimmer stores the information or sometimes transmits it to the thief nearby. Skimmers are scary because they look legitimate and normal but have all the potential to cause you financial harm after your visit.
4. Unsecured website browsing: If you are surfing around websites that are well known and safe, then you will more than likely be fine. However, if you decide to use a site that isn't well known, then you need to make sure the information you input is sent through encryption. Always check near where you input a web address to see if you spot a lock symbol. This symbol lets you know whether or not the site your visiting is encrypted. Also pay attention to your browser and firewall alerts, which are there to protect you from harm. Be very cautious if you are thinking of over riding them.
5. Digital Breaches: We hear about a new breach a few times a year but there are sometimes many every week. According to Risk Based Security research, published in their 2019 Mid Year Quick View Data Breach Report, the first six months of 2019 have seen 3,813 breaches exposing more than 4.1 billion compromised records. Breaches are on a 54% up swing compared to 2018 according to the same report.
6. Dark Web Marketplace: There are websites selling stolen identities for the average price of $20 and with some valued at hundreds of dollars depending on the victims credit report and credit score. Hackers steal identities but they are not using them, but rather selling them to buyers with potentially bad intentions.
7. Smart Phone Theft: Mobile devices have all of our valuable information from login I.D's to passwords and social security numbers. Identity thieves can easily steal your information through applications on your mobile device since they have auto login features without passwords needing to be inputted. It is crucial to always use phone locks-- such as biometrics and passcodes for your protection. Do not ever keep your passwords in plain view for anybody to see.
8. Mail Theft: This may be the oldest identity theft trick still being used today. People who steal identities are always on the hunt for credit cards and bank statements in mailboxes. Also remember to shred your personal financial letters before throwing them out in your trash. Once you leave your trash on the curb it is fair game to the identity thief who is willing to go through it for their own nefarious schemes.
How identity Theft affects victims
Depending on the circumstances of how the identity theft occurred, each person will be affected differently in their everyday life and financial situation. Most people realize they are missing a wallet left on the seat of their car when it's too late and the thief has opened up new accounts or made purchases using credit cards. Some people realize much later down the line that they are victims when they check their credit reports and see items unknown to them added. It is important to keep track of any new inquiries or items added to your credit report at all times.
List of possible events that occur after identity theft:
1. Unauthorized credit card or bank purchases.
2. Selling your private personal information to other thieves.
3. Opening new credit card accounts.
4. File phony income tax returns to steal your return.
5. Purchase vehicles in your name.
When people hear about identity theft and the effects it causes they usually think of only the financial effects it has on victims. However victims aren't just suffering from depleted funds and large debts, but also from stress, anxiety, and an overwhelming amount of work needed to take their identity back.
How to Fight Back After Identity Theft Occurs
Recovering your identity after identity theft occurs can be a major task for some people wondering how to recover their reports and scores. It can take a few days and up to a few years to resolve identity theft if left unchecked and not followed up on immediately. The process may include late payments, medical debt, police investigations, and IRS penalties.
When you first realize that you are a victim of identity theft, you will need to take the time and effort to do some research on when it started , name of creditors, account numbers, and how many times it has happened. After gathering some information you would need to do the following:
1. Check Your Credit Reports: You can check all three major credit bureau credit reports at Annualcreditreport.com for free once a year. After reviewing your reports you will have a better scope of which accounts are yours and which accounts and charges are fraudulent.
2. File a Police Report: Call your local police department and file a police report for identity theft. This task alone may seem like a lot to do. Police departments are backed up with identity theft crimes that may take some time to investigate and are not the highest priority compared to other crimes. However, you will need to follow up with the investigation and make sure you have a police report filing number for your records. Having a police report will help tremendously when disputing erroneous information with the bureaus.
3. Locking and Freezing your Credit Report: This is a tool that helps all victims stop suffering from more harm from thieves . You can go to any of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Trans Union) and ask for a credit freeze and they are mandated by federal law to provide a free credit freeze. This stops access to your credit file. However, information from lenders already on your credit file can still be added.
4. Report your case to the FTC: Identitytheft.gov will go through a step by step plan to help you regain control over your identity and credit file.
5. Dispute Fraudulent accounts: Any accounts on your Credit report that are not yours should be disputed after completing the 4 steps above. There is no reason to suffer from financial hardship longer than you have to by keeping fraudulent accounts on your credit report.
There are many problems you must overcome when dealing with identity theft and cleaning up your credit history. Victims may take from a few hours and up to 1000+ hours to fix their credit history. Everyone has their own unique situation when it comes to identity theft and here at Credit Freedom Experts our consultants have to tools and resources to help you get through this experience and dispute fraudulent items off your credit report.
Identity Theft may be a tough task to take on and recover from. Our experts have helped make this process much easier to get past for clients to be able to move on with their life and dreams.