Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. If you suspect that someone is misusing your personal information, acting quickly is the best way to limit the damage. Setting things straight involves some work.
How Do Thieves Get Your Information?
"I thought I kept my personal information to myself." You may have, but identity thieves are resourceful: they rummage through your garbage, the trash of businesses, or public dumps. They may work — or pretend to work -- for legitimate companies, medical offices, clinics, pharmacies, or government agencies, or convince you to reveal personal information. Some thieves pretend to represent an institution you trust, and try to trick you into revealing personal information by email or phone.
What Do Thieves Do with Your Information?
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility 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
- Merchants refuse your checks
- 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
- The IRS notifies you 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
What If Your Information Is Lost or Stolen, but Your Accounts Don't Show any Problems?
If your wallet, Social Security card, or other personal, financial or account information are lost or stolen, contact the credit reporting companies and place a fraud alert on your credit file. Check your bank and other account statements for unusual activity. Order a free copy of your credit report periodically to monitor your accounts. You have a right to one free copy of your credit report from each of the national credit reporting companies every year.