There are few feelings more invasive than when someone you don’t know has access to your personal information. Unfortunately, victims of identity theft often don’t know a crime has happened until it’s too late. That’s why it’s so important to be familiar with the warning signs of identity theft.
At Stecklein & Rapp, we’re proud to help consumers learn how to protect themselves and fight against fraud and theft. If you’re in Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas, or Lincoln, Nebraska, give us a call today to get your questions answered about identity theft.
What Is Identity Theft?
You’ve probably heard the term ‘identity theft’ thrown around in the news, but what does it really mean? Identity theft covers a range of offenses, but they all involve someone else assuming your identity without your permission. This could be using your personal information, such as credit cards, Social Security numbers, or account numbers. Someone could also create new accounts or identities using your information.
Identity theft includes crimes like tax fraud and medical identity theft. Because many of these crimes are perpetrated digitally, it can often be difficult to track down the culprit. The most important thing you can do is protect against it happening in the first place.
Warning Signs of Identity Theft
The following are common warning signs of identity theft that you should not ignore:
Unexplained charges or withdrawals on your cards or accounts
You should consistently check your bank statements for accuracy. Yes, sometimes a store can make a mistake and double charge you for an item, but if you notice charges appearing for places you’ve never been before, you should contact your bank immediately and cancel your cards.
Unexpected medical bills
Unfortunately, some criminals will take your personal information in order to obtain medical services or drugs. Medical identity theft can be harder to catch because most people aren’t checking their health insurance statements regularly.
Errors on your credit report
Another indication of identity theft is seeing errors on your credit report. This often happens when someone opens new lines of credit under your name that you have no knowledge of. Because these are not tied to existing accounts, criminals can use them for months before they’re discovered. If you do notice an error on your credit report — even if it seems small — notify the credit reporting agency immediately to have it fixed.
Errors on your tax return
Tax fraud identity theft occurs when someone steals your information and files a fake tax return in your name trying to collect a refund. Criminals will typically do this at the beginning of the year because they know most people wait months to file their taxes. By then, the refund check will already have been issued and cashed by the criminal. To combat this, file your taxes as soon as possible and watch out for notifications from the state or federal government that a return has been filed under your name.
Steps to Take if You Are a Victim
If you’ve recently discovered you’ve been a victim of identity theft, there are a few steps you should take:
- Order a copy of your credit report and check for errors or inconsistencies. If you do find evidence of identity theft, put a fraud alert on your report which will make it harder for anyone to open a new account under your name.
- Close all accounts that you suspect have been tampered with and alert your bank and credit agencies of the fraud.
- Change all your passwords, and not just for the websites you accessed your accounts through. If you use the same password for multiple logins, you should change all of these as well.
- Keep a log of all your actions in reference to the breached accounts including calls, emails, and letters. If the fraud continues, this information can become very useful.
- File a report of the theft with your local police department.
Let Stecklein & Rapp Help
No matter how cautious you are, there’s always a chance you could end up the victim of identity theft. Yes, there are ways to minimize this outcome, but no one is invulnerable. If you’re fighting against fraud or identity theft and feel you need legal assistance, call our team of dedicated lawyers today to speak with someone who can help. We serve clients in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas, Lincoln, Nebraska, as well as those throughout Eastern Kansas, Western Missouri, Colorado, and Nebraska.