We’ve probably all been the victim of a data breach or hack at some point in our lives, but what happens to your personal information after it’s been stolen? In this article we take a look at what criminals do with your personal data.
What To Do If Your Identity Has Been Stolen
Your identity has been stolen, what should you do? In the post, we outline what steps you need to take for the most common types of identity theft.
Identity theft is an alarmingly common part of modern society. We have probably all received a call from our bank at some point asking us to verify certain purchases. In some cases, identity theft is easy to spot but in others it is more insidious. There are several different types of identity theft. In this article, we will cover the most common types and what you should do if you discover that your identity has been stolen.
Financial Identity Theft
This is by far the most common type of identity theft. A malicious actor may apply for a loan or credit card under your name, or simply gain access to your credit card information and begin making purchases.
For credit card theft and fraud, most of the time your bank will notice a suspicious transaction and give you a call. If you are the one that notices a suspicious transaction, or that you have lost or had your credit card stolen, the first thing you need to do is phone your bank and report that your card information has been stolen. The bank should immediately cancel your credit card, and issue you a new one. You will want to make sure that you choose a new PIN number that is different from your old one. Contacting the police and filing a report is also a good idea, as is contacting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you are in the US, or the relevant authority in your jurisdiction.
Additionally, you will want to change any other passwords and security questions related to your account. As an extra precaution, you should also change your passwords on any shopping or e-commerce websites that you use and remove your credit card information from there as well. Make sure that your passwords are diverse and complicated; if you need help remembering them you can always use a service like LastPass.
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If someone has taken out a loan or opened a credit card under your name, then the steps are a little different. Filing a police report is a must and you will need to submit a report to the relevant authorities. After that, you should contact the lender. Usually, a fraudulent credit card or personal loan can be cleared up pretty quickly. You will then need to contact each of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to dispute the errors and provide them with the police report and/or a letter from the lender stating it was identity theft.
In the case of a fraudulent student loan taken out in your name, it gets even more complicated as there are major penalties for failing to pay off such a loan. You will need to contact both the lender and the school, and provide them with a copy of the police report.
Lastly, in order to prevent any type of financial fraud from happening again, you should put a fraud alert on your credit. This will require potential creditors to go through extra steps in order to confirm your identity. If you are in the US, you can do this by calling one of the three national credit bureaus.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft is when someone fraudulently uses your health insurance information to receive reimbursement themselves. In essence, they get treatment under your health insurance plan. It is less common than other types of identity theft, but it is one of the most damaging. You are probably a victim of medical identity theft if you receive bills for medical services you didn’t receive, notices from collectors for medical debt you don’t have, notices from your health insurance provider that you have reached your benefit limit, or if your medical records show conditions you do not have.
Unfortunately, the whole process of remedying the situation requires a lot of legwork on your part, but it is doable as long as you are patient and aren’t afraid to get on the phone. The first step is to obtain your medical records and look to see if anything is out of place or inaccurate. If possible, call any hospital, pharmacy, doctor, clinic, or health plan that you know the thief used and get records from them. If a provider refuses to release your records within 30 days, you can file a complaint at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.
After that, you will need to contact your health insurance plan and medical providers for copies of “accounting of disclosures” for your medical records. This shows you who has copies of your inaccurate medical records and therefore, who you need to contact.
If there is false information on your records, you will need to ask for corrections to be made by your healthcare and medical providers. It is recommended to send copies of your records with errors highlighted, and to send these by certified mail so that you know they have been received.
Lastly, contact your healthcare provider and all three national credit bureaus to report that your identity has been stolen. Most likely, whoever has your medical information also has a lot of identifying information about you, and they may try to commit financial fraud as well. It will be a lot easier if you have a police report to show. As a result, it is recommended to file one.
This type of identity theft can be very long and hard to fight, so we recommend that you keep a close eye on your medical information and file a police report anytime your personal information is stolen, regardless of if identity theft is immediately committed or not.
Tax Identity Theft
Tax identity theft occurs when someone files a tax return using your identifying information, fraudulently claims your children as dependents, and/or claims your tax benefits. Someone can also use your personal information to apply for a job, which will lead to problems as you may be on the hook for income that you didn’t actually earn. Tax identity theft is one of the most common types of identity fraud.
If you are a victim of tax identity theft, you will need to contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) immediately. You will likely be asked to file a police report, fill out a specific form, and send proof of your identity (such as a copy of your passport or driver’s license). Next, you should file a complaint with the FTC. They will provide you with an Identity Theft Affidavit, which you will need to hold on to.
In order to file a police report, you will need the Identity Theft Affidavit provided by the FTC, along with proof of theft (such as a notice from the IRS), a government-issued ID, proof of address, and the FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement. If your local police station refuses to take your identity theft report, you can try filing it as a miscellaneous incident report or go to another police station.
Like with most types of identity theft on this list, it is important to contact one of the three national credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit report. Tax identity theft is usually a precursor to other types of identity theft, so it is recommended to freeze your credit at each of the three credit bureaus.
Unfortunately, resolving tax fraud can take months or even years. In order to prevent tax fraud, it is advised to file your taxes earlier rather than later. Most thieves take advantage of the fact that most people do not file their taxes until later in the tax season.
Child Identity Theft
As briefly covered in tax identity theft, it is common for criminals to steal the identity of your child to do things like claim them as dependents on a tax return, open credit cards or take out loans under their name, apply for government benefits, and more. This is one of the easier ones to spot as you will most likely start receiving mail addressed to your child or children.
The best thing to do in a situation like this is to report it at identitytheft.gov, contact the lender to close out the account, and file a police report to start a paper trail. Thanks to a new provision, you can also freeze your child’s credit to prevent this from happening again. Note that you will need to place a freeze at all three credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
It is extremely important that if you are a victim of identity theft, you take action immediately. In all cases, you should file a police report and put a fraud alert on your credit. Freezing your credit is also advised, especially since you can unfreeze your credit at a later date. The best thing you can do to prevent identity theft is to take proactive action. This can be as simple as monitoring your credit, having complex and varied passwords, or ignoring suspicious emails. You can read more about this in our article on how to prevent identity theft. Unfortunately, identity theft is a problem that is not going to go away, and it is important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from it.