Prevent identity theft
Did you recently get a notice that says your personal information was exposed in a data breach? Did you lose your wallet? Or learn that an online account was hacked? Depending on what information was lost, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft.
What information was lost or exposed?
Social Security number
- If a company responsible for exposing your information offers you free credit monitoring, take advantage of it.
- Get your free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. Check for any accounts or charges you don’t recognize.
- Consider placing a credit freeze. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name.
- If you place a freeze, be ready to take a few extra steps the next time you apply for a new credit card or cell phone – or any service that requires a credit check.
- If you decide not to place a credit freeze, at least consider placing a fraud alert.
- Try to file your taxes early - before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
- Don’t believe anyone who calls and says you’ll be arrested unless you pay for taxes or debt — even if they have part or all of your Social Security number, or they say they’re from the IRS.
- Continue to check your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com. You can order a free report from each of the three credit reporting companies once a year.
Online login or password
- Log in to that account and change your password. If possible, also change your username.
- If you can’t log in, contact the company. Ask them how you can recover or shut down the account.
- If you use the same password anywhere else, change that, too.
- Is it a financial site, or is your credit card number stored? Check your account for any charges that you don’t recognize.
Debit or credit card number
- Contact your financial institution or credit card company to cancel your card and request a new one.
- Review your transactions regularly. Make sure no one misused your card.
- If you find fraudulent charges, call the fraud department and get them removed.
- If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new card number.
- Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
Bank account information
- Contact your financial institution to close the account and open a new one.
- Review your transactions regularly to make sure no one misused your account.
- If you find fraudulent charges or withdrawals, call the fraud department and get them removed.
- If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new bank account information.
- Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
What to do when you lose your driver’s license?
Your license contains a photo of you, as well as your name, address, age, and other personal details. Fraudsters could use this to steal your identity. Criminal identity theft occurs when someone has a brush with the law—anything from a traffic violation to a felony—and claims to be you. They eventually move on, leaving you with an unpaid parking ticket, bail or bond, or a court date that you know nothing about. Another scenario could involve combining your insurance card with your driver’s license information. A criminal can seek medical care in your name.
If you believe that you have lost your driver’s license, there are some important steps that you must take immediately.
- Contact the police. Call the police’s non-emergency line. This is the first thing you want to do if you believe you have been robbed. Even if you don’t think your license was stolen, it is still a good idea to make a police report. Make sure they notate your license number in their report. You can use that later to change your license number. This will help prevent identity theft if your license is found. Tell the police that you would like to file a report. Not only is there a chance that police might find the thief, but the existence of a police report will also help you contest any fraud committed in your name.
- Place a freeze on your credit reports. The information contained on your license could be used by a thief to create a financial account in your name. Seeking a freeze will prevent this from happening, and could protect you from some of the worst consequences of identity theft.
- Notify your state DMV. To prevent thieves from using your license as their own, your state may flag the number so police know that it has been stolen. This will alert law enforcement to be extra careful in identifying a person they may have pulled over.
- Don’t drive until you get a replacement license. You should get a new license as soon as possible, but you absolutely shouldn’t drive without one. Don’t risk additional violations during this stressful time.
- Monitor credit reports. Check your credit report for any accounts that crooks may have opened in your name. Credit reports are available for free, from each of the three national credit reporting agencies. Some monitoring services and credit card companies now allow you unlimited access to credit information, so you could theoretically check every day.
- Prevent potential check fraud. You also don’t want to have your license number automatically written at the top of your checks because if they were to end up in the wrong hands, it could result in years of check fraud problems. Check fraud is a felony and could lead to a warrant being issued if you are not careful.
Like Credit Reporting Agencies, Check Verification Companies keep track of what checks have been written and attributed to your driver’s license. You can get your reports for free from all three agencies.
- ChexSystems (800) 428-9623
- Certegy (800) 437-5120
- TeleCheck (800) 366-2425
More prevention tips:
- Be extra careful about emails and attachments. Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails that claim to be updated by any company connected to a data breach. Learn More
- Use Two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication adds a second level of authentication to an account log-in. When you have to enter only your username and one password, that's considered a single-factor authentication. 2FA requires the user to have two out of three types of credentials before being able to access an account. Learn More
- File your taxes promptly. While thieves may use stolen information to create fraudulent bank accounts, they may also use it to file fraudulent tax returns. File your taxes as soon as you have the tax information you need and respond promptly to letters sent to you by the IRS. Note that the IRS will never communicate with you via email, so watch out for this type of fraud and don’t open emails purporting to be from the IRS
- Check your Credit Cards accounts often. Reviewing your recent account activity is fundamental to credit card safety—and it’s easy. You can do it online or by phone. If your credit card issuer offers email or text alerts about unusual activity, sign up to receive them.
- Monitor credit reports. Check your credit report for any accounts that crooks may have opened in your name. Credit reports are available for free, from each of the three national credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — from http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Some monitoring services and credit card companies now allow you unlimited access to credit information, so you could theoretically check every day.
- Order specialty free reports outside of the big three credit reporting agencies. Specialty reporting companies may disclose information that can help prevent fraudulent accounts and other identity theft crimes:
LexisNexis Full File Disclosure. It’s one of the more comprehensive databases out there, containing all the information LexisNexis gathers to create its various reports about you. And, like credit reports, you can order one free copy per year. Please visit: https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/access_your_full_file_disclosure.jsp
Complete List: For a complete list, please visit the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201604_cfpb_list-of-consumer-reporting-companies.pdf
What to do if you suspect credit card fraud.
- Call the bank or financial institution that issued your card immediately. Your issuer may want to cancel your current card and issue you a new one. Check with your issuer to verify that your mailing address has not been changed.
- If you still have your card but fraudulent purchases have been made, call your issuer to report the fraud and request a new card. Also, contact the credit bureaus to let them know that fraud has occurred. A "Fraud Alert" message will be placed on your file. You should also request a copy of your credit report and review it carefully.