Stay alert. Make it a habit to routinely review your financial information, such as credit reports, bank statements, credit card transactions, and so on. Anything strange, such as an unfamiliar charge, should be investigated and reported to your financial institution and credit card issuer. Also, consider taking advantage of alerting features, such as a bank letting you know about withdrawals over a certain dollar value, to give you a prompt “heads up” that something suspicious may be happening.
Identify where the charges were incurred. Credit card statements contain information about the location of a purchase. If you see charges made in an area you've never been, it's likely that your personal and credit card information were stolen online and either used by the original thieves or sold. On the other hand, if you've discovered unauthorized charges made at a store you visited two weeks ago, it’s likely that someone tampered with the retailer’s payment processing devices, hacked into a company’s customer database, or, quite simply, a rogue retail employee copied your information and reused it.
Take prompt action!
As soon as you suspect something bad is happening, do the following:
1. Notify affected vendors and banks. First, you’ll need to change your logins, passwords, and PINs associated with the stolen accounts. Next, contact the vendors of your compromised accounts and discuss your next steps. Note: Be wary of emails requesting sensitive information initiated from them as they could be coming from the thieves! Instead, look up the vendors yourself, double-check the URL(s) to be certain you’ve got the authentic website and notify them of your identity theft. From the website, you may be able to file a suspected fraud or to obtain proper numbers should you choose to report via phone.
2. Register a fraud alert. Contact any of the three main credit reporting agencies to inform them your identity has been stolen, and confirm that they will inform the other two agencies. By creating a fraud alert, credit lenders are required to contact you for verification and approval in the event of any subsequent attempts (for the following 90 days) to open new credit lines.
3. Report identity theft to the FTC. It’s important to report the identity theft to the FTC (and, optionally, to the police). Involving the police is a good idea if you personally know the individual behind the identity theft or in cases where your identity was used during a traffic citation.
4. Document the event and move on. As part of your contact with affected institutions (e.g., your bank and credit card processor), request written documentation confirming the fact that you won’t be held responsible for charges the criminal(s) incurred. Be sure to keep this documentation should anything unfortunate occur down the road, such as a credit report citation. Be sure to get the name and contact information of anyone with whom you speak. And, be sure to contact the credit bureaus and have them clean up your credit reports. How? Simply send them a copy of the Identity Theft Report, identify the fraudulent charges, and request that they block this information from the reports.
Cleaning up the mess left by identity thieves is a burdensome chore. Avoid this unpleasant work by doing your best to avoid identity theft in the first place!
Contact your Circuit IT Security Officer, local IT staff, or ITSO with any questions you may have about protecting yourself from identity theft.
Money: Data Breach Tracker: All the Major Companies That Have Been Hacked
CBS News Money Watch: What identity thieves do with stolen credit cardsNBC News: Use of Credit Card ‘Skimmers’ at Gas Stations, ATMs is Exploding
Yahoo: How Can I Identify a Phishing Website or Email?
The Balance: Who are the three major credit bureaus?
Federal Trade Commission : Consumer Information - Place a Fraud Alert
Federal Trade Commission : Most ID theft victims don’t need a police report