🔒 Identity Theft: Take Back Control

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We hope you are enjoying some free time. What are you all doing this first weekend without football? 😭

We have another advanced look at a story we’ve been working on. It’s tax season and that means scammers are working hard to steal your identity and your hard-earned money. News4JAX helps you figure out if someone stole your identity, how to fight back, and how to stop thieves from taking your identity in the first place. You can watch our coverage starting Monday at 7 a.m. on The Morning Show, but go ahead with our story below:

Are you a victim of identity theft?

Since it’s tax season, if the IRS tells you that they’ve received more than one tax return in your name, that’s a key sign that someone else is using your identity. It’s called tax identity theft. A notice that you have received income from an employer you do not work for is another sign.

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Also, with the pandemic, many have applied for unemployment benefits. If you receive a notice from a state unemployment office or an employer about unemployment benefits that you did not apply for, this is a sign of fraud.

But if you don’t get these kind of notifications, you might still be a victim without even knowing it. To find out, there are simple steps to follow.

Check credit reports

  • Look for new accounts: Any accounts you haven’t opened, such as a new credit card, personal loan, or car loan, will appear as a new account.

  • Look for requests you don’t recognise: Items such as a new cell phone plan or a utility – like water, gas or electricity – will appear as a request.

Check invoices and statements

Along with your credit reports, you should also check your credit card statements, bank statements, medical bills, and your explanation of benefit statements. You’re looking to make sure there are no charges you don’t recognize, withdrawals you didn’t make, or medical services you didn’t receive. If you see something on your medical statements that you don’t recognizeyou could be a victim of medical identity theft.

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You think you are a victim. And now?

If you believe someone is using your personal information fraudulently, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you go to their website IdentityTheft.gov. Once there, you will find step-by-step instructions for developing a personalized recovery plan to regain control of your identity.

You’ll answer questions and provide details about what happened and any issues you found on your credit reports.

  • The FTC will use this information you provide to create your personalized Identity Theft Report – which shows that someone has stolen your identity.

  • The FTC will also create a personalized recovery plan and walk you through tips to help you resolve any issues – including what to do first, then next steps after that.
  • You will be directed on how to close new accounts opened in your name and remove fees charged to your existing accounts.

  • You will be advised to contact all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experianand Trans Union – on how to correct your credit report.

Protect yourself from becoming a victim

You may have heard of a credit freeze and a fraud alert. Both are free, but they do different things that can help protect your identity from theft. You can request blocks and alerts by contact all three credit bureaus.

Credit freezes

The FTC says a freezing credit is the best way to protect yourself and prevent a thief from opening new accounts in your name.

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Here’s how it works:

  • When in place, it prevents potential creditors from accessing your credit file.

  • Creditors won’t give credit unless they can check your credit report.

  • Identity thieves will not be able to open an account in your name.

The FTC says freezing credit is also helpful if you’ve ever been a victim of identity theft. or that your information has been exposed in a data breach.

And the good news, the FTC says a credit freeze won’t affect your credit score, and you can still use your existing credit cards, apply for a job, and rent an apartment. You can temporarily lift the gel and then put it back. The freeze lasts until you remove it.

Fraud Alerts

Although a fraud alert does not limit access to your credit file, it does tell a company to check with you before allowing a new account to be opened in your name. This usually means you’ll get a phone call to make sure the person trying to open a new account is you.

A fraud alert lasts for one year – but you can renew it for free. If you have ever been a victim of identity theft, you may receive an Extended Fraud Alert that lasts seven years. Additionally, credit bureaus remove you from their marketing lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers for five years, unless you ask them not to.

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Protections for active duty military personnel

If you are an active duty member, you can place a free, active alert on your credit file by contact all three credit bureaus.

The alert will make it harder for someone to open a new credit account in your name. It lasts for one year, but you can renew it for the duration of your deployment. The credit bureaus will also remove you from marketing lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers for two years, unless you ask them not to.

Free electronic credit monitoring is also available to active duty military members. It can detect problems that could result from identity theft. You can register in contact each of the three credit bureaus.

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