4 Signs You Are Dealing with an Identity Fraud

By definition, “identity theft” occurs when someone steals your identity whereas “identity fraud” occurs when that person uses your identity to commit fraud or deceive someone. There are many ways in which identity theft can occur such as by phishing, by use of malware and by other tactics such as simply stealing credit cards, your personal documents or secretly sneaking over your information. By whatever means, once this information falls into the notorious hands of the fraudster, he is now well equipped to commit the crime.

What kind of crimes can be committed once thieves get hold of your personal information?

Your Personal information can be used to open a new bank account, apply for an IT return, apply for a credit card or a loan. Your credit card can be used to make unauthorized purchases. These crimes can affect your credit scores too. Here are 4 giveaways to indicate that someone has stolen your information.

1. Your Account Statement Looks Suspicious or Your Checks Bounce:
When checking your account statement, even a small discrepancy should raise an alarm. You may have become a victim of financial identity fraud. Check for unknown withdrawals, deductions or payments.

Safety measures:
● Be aware of your spendings, subscriptions, and purchases. Make an excel sheet in your drive online which can be accessed from anywhere using the internet. Note down your monthly, quarterly, annual subscriptions and auto deductions with their amount. By doing this, you will be aware of your spendings and easily recognize any unknown charges.
● Keep a regular check on your accounts for any suspicious or unfamiliar activity and immediately contact your bank in case you smell a fraud.
● Get your bank KYC done by completing PAN verification and other identity verification procedures so that you fortify your identity.
● If you suspect unapproved access to your bank account, it’s better to close that account and open a new one with a new account number.
P.S. When you change to a new account, remember to update any automatic payments with your new account information.

2. You Detect Some Dubious Activity from Your Credit Card or Your Credit Report Doesn’t look Right:

Another sign that you may be a victim of financial ID theft is suspicious activity on your credit card statement. You may see a small but unknown amount deduction on your credit card statement. This could be a ‘check trap’ by the fraudster to see whether you are vigilant enough to file a fraudulent charge. If you don’t ignore it, the fraudster will go ahead with a bigger withdrawal.

Safety Measures:
● If you notice fraudulent purchases using your credit card, contact the merchant and card issuer to alert them of the fraud and ask the card issuer to immediately block the account.
● Contact any of the four major credit information companies such as CRIF High Mark to place a fraud alert or a credit freeze on your credit report, which prevents identity thieves to open accounts in your name.
● The credit reporting agency you contact, ideally informs about the fraud to the other agencies. Always keep an eye on your credit score and credit reports for signs of any unauthorized activity.

3. Debt Collectors Start Calling You Out of the Blue:
If you receive even a single call from creditors asking you to pay the unpaid bills that you don’t even recognize, it is possible that someone has stolen your personal information and is now buying credit under your name. Check your credit report for unfamiliar accounts.

Safety Measures:
● If you are a victim, you’ll need to contact the merchant or service provider where the fraudulent account was opened and close that account immediately.
● Inform the credit agencies about the fraud so that it does not affect your credit score.

4. You’re Unable to File Taxes

Identity thieves may file taxes using your personal details to route your tax refunds into their accounts. This would inhibit your ability to pay taxes.

Safety Measures:
● Contact the local police and the federal trade commission.

Six Things To Do If You Become A Victim Of Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, credit card number, or other personal information without your knowledge & permission. This personal information is often misused for performing fraudulent or criminal activities. How your information is stolen, and how it is used, may vary. For instance, your PAN card number could be used by thieves to falsify their income and credit history when they apply for a loan, open new lines of credit or file taxes.

There have been instances where people, whose identities have been stolen, have spent years of time & money cleaning up the mess left behind by the thieves. So, as soon as you suspect that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud, take these steps immediately to clear your name and your credit:

1. Lock the concerned account & register FIR: Almost all the banks provide an instant SMS acknowledgment service to verify your purchases. When you start getting messages on your phone about a purchase which was not made by you, contact your bank or lender or insurance company immediately to lock down the account. The next step is to register an FIR in the respective police station to legalize your complaint to find out the fraudster.

2. Put a fraud alert on your credit reports: You can contact one of the credit information companies such as CRIF and place a fraud alert on your credit report. A Fraud alert notifies lenders to verify your identity before extending any credit, by calling you at a phone number you provide. You can either place a temporary alert which lasts for 90 days or an extended fraud alert which lasts for 7 years. The latter can only be issued if you can prove that your identity has been stolen. Another option—and a more effective identity fraud prevention measure—is to place a security freeze on each of your credit reports. A freeze prevents creditors (except those with whom you already do business) from accessing your credit report(s) at all. Most new applications will automatically be declined because, without access to your file, the creditor will have no way to assess your credit. Unlike a fraud alert, in case of security freeze, you’ll need to contact each credit information company individually to place a freeze on your files.

3. Check Your credit reports: After installing a fraud alert in your credit file, you’ll automatically receive a free credit report from each of the four agencies, and you will be opted out of preapproved credit card and insurance offers. Once you receive your free reports, make note of the unique number assigned to your account. This will be helpful in all your communications with the agencies. Check your reports for signs of fraud — new accounts you didn’t open, hard inquiries you did not make, payment history you can’t account for, an employer you never worked for and any personal information unfamiliar to you. Check your credit reports at least once over the course of the next year to check for fraudulent activity.

4. File a police report: Alert the police in your city. You may also need to report the theft to the police departments where it occurred. Make sure to get a copy of the police report and/or the report number. Although the police may not be able immediately helpful if your identity was stolen by criminals online and overseas, your report could help them track down someone who is stealing information locally.

5. Close existing & Open new financial accounts: Identity fraud victims should talk to their banks & financial institutions to determine how they can further avoid the damage. They might require you to close existing accounts (even the ones that haven’t been compromised) and reopen new accounts. It can be a tedious process, but a necessary one to avoid a future incidence.

6. Tighten your account settings: Regularly update passwords to all your online accounts. Make sure they are strong containing a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. Delete any personal information such as addresses and phone numbers of public profiles on social media and other sites.

We hope the above steps will help you fight the battle against identity theft!