A common concern you ask us about is identity theft. I’m spelling out what to do if your identity is stolen and things you can do to protect yourself from ID theft. Also this week: a warning about more hidden fees on your electricity bill.
Fighting ID theft
Millions of people are affected each year by identity theft. It’s big business for identity thieves and it’s getting worse. The Federal Trade Commission receives millions of identity theft reports every year. It costs consumers billions of dollars.
The most common types of identity theft were credit card fraud, government documents or benefits fraud, and loan or lease fraud.
Warning signs that you might be an ID theft victim
- Bills that do not arrive as expected
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements. Or charges on your credit card that you didn’t make.
- Denials of credit that you did not apply for
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
- Charges on your financial statements that you don’t recognize
- Incorrect information on your credit reports - accounts or addresses you don’t recognize
- Claims you didn’t make with your medical insurance.
What to do if your identity is stolen
If you think you are a victim of ID theft, first you may already have help available. Check your homeowner’s insurance and your credit cards. Some policies come with ID theft protection already.
1. Activate a fraud alert
A fraud alert is used to inform creditors that you may be a victim of fraud. A fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open accounts in your name. This requires creditors to verify that you are the person adding new credit accounts or changing limits on existing credit accounts by contacting you at the phone number you have provided.
Contact any one of the credit reporting companies to place a fraud alert. They will share your request with the other credit reporting companies.
2. Report ID theft to the FTC
You can report identity theft to the FTC, which will help prove to businesses that someone stole your identity. You also have the right to place a fraud alert on your credit report, request that fraudulent information be removed from your report, and stop debt collectors from contacting you.
3. File a police report
You might want to file a police report for identity theft if you know the person who committed the crime, or if you find out the thief used your name or information during a police interaction, such as pretending to be you upon arrest. Credit card companies or financial institutions might request that you file a police report if you claim identity theft.
4. Take advantage of the resources available to help you
IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.
FTC’s Consumer Response Center 1-877-FTC-HELP
The FTC enters all of your information into a secure online database that other law enforcement agencies can access during their own investigations.
You have rights if your identity is stolen!
Watch Ask Amy episode: Fighting ID Theft
Why is my electricity bill so high?
The summer heat and higher electricity rates mean we are all paying more for our electric bills right now. What you see is not always what you get. I explain the new hidden fees some companies are now charging customers.
Do you have a question for me? Email AskAmy@kprc.com!