Identity theft is one of the top consumer complaints in the U.S., according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with nearly 400,000 complaints lodged in 2016. Common schemes criminals use to steal someone else’s identity include dumpster-diving to steal unshredded bills and other documents containing personal information; sending suspicious emails or phishing scams to trick victims into revealing account numbers and passwords; stealing mail to obtain preapproved loan and credit card offers; credit card breaches and ransomware attacks. Thieves use this information for anything from opening accounts and stealing your money to getting medical treatment.
Falling victim to identity theft can be an unsettling experience and many people don’t know where to begin to restore their good name and credit, what to do or even who to call if it happens to them.
Here are five important steps to take immediately if you fall victim to identity theft:
1. File a police report – This is the first step to take if there is any indication of identity theft. Many fraud departments will require a copy of this report to validate a customer’s status as an identity theft victim.
2. Place a fraud alert with credit bureaus – Fraud alerts signal creditors to verify a person’s identity before authorizing a new credit account in his or her name. Place 90-day alerts with the three major credit bureaus: Experian at (888) 397-3742, Equifax at (800) 525-6285 and TransUnion at (800) 680-7289, as soon as you suspect your information has been compromised. Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb to follow before falling victim to identity theft is to check your credit reports at least twice a year. This will alert you to unauthorized credit cards, loans or other activities that are associated with your name. Free reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com.
3. Cancel all credit and debit cards – This will go faster if you keep an up-to-date list of credit and debit card numbers at home in a secure location for quick reference.
4. Contact banks and credit unions – Be sure to close checking accounts and any other connected (e.g., savings, loan, credit card) accounts. If necessary, request stop payments on uncleared checks and stolen check numbers. Open a new checking account and request new debit and credit cards, if applicable.
5. Contact other providers – Notify your homeowners, condo or renters insurance carrier, as well as your auto insurer of your situation, so you aren’t dinged with unpaid premiums and to make sure they know no one else is able to file claims under your name. You should also contact the places (e.g., libraries, gyms, and wholesale clubs) where you have memberships.
Mercury Insurance has partnered with CyberScout, the leading data security and identity theft protection firm, to help Mercury customers proactively manage their identities and work to repair them if theft is suspected. This coverage is available to Mercury homeowners, renters and condo owners policyholders. Contact your local Mercury Insurance agent to learn more.