You’ve been reviewing your financial statements and spotted some unauthorized transactions on your bank account. That’s one of the most common warning signs of a stolen identity, along with getting word from a company that it experienced a data breach, not receiving your bills or mail, calls from debt collectors about debt that isn’t yours and other red flags.
If you’ve been the victim of a stolen identity, you’re not alone. A report from Javelin Strategy & Research found that, in 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity theft, a new record that surpassed the year before. And, for the first time, there were more reports of social security identity theft than there were of credit card information, the research showed.
The good news is that, if you’ve identified the problem, you’ve gotten through the first step. The not so great news is you’ll then have to start the daunting process of reporting it.
But there are several different types of identity theft (from a stolen social security number to stolen financial information), making it harder to know where to begin.
Don’t worry! We at Kinetic by Windstream is here to help you learn all the ways to detect and report these different types of identity theft.
1. Tax-Related Identity Theft
Tax-related identity theft is when an unauthorized person uses your social security number to file a tax return and claim your refund, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance. You’ll know if you have a stolen identity if you try to file your taxes online but learn that someone has already submitted a return or if the IRS notifies you of a suspicious tax return that used your social security number. In this case, you’ll need to fill out an IRS Form 14039, the identity theft affidavit, which is accessible through identitytheft.gov. On that website, you’ll also find tools to help you recover your information, including how to place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
2. Medical Identity Theft
If you’ve noticed some suspicious services on your medical or insurance statements, you may be a victim of medical identity theft. These usually occur when you’re billed for services you didn’t receive, you’re told that you’ve reached your benefit limit on your health insurance plan or you’ve been served a denial of insurance because medical records show a condition that you simply don’t have. If you think someone has taken over your medical identity, get copies of your medical records and accounting of disclosures, which show what medical information was sent and to whom, and look for errors. If you find any errors, report and correct them with your healthcare provider. And remember to keep up with your records!
3. Child Identity Theft
Identity theft of a child may be a little easier to spot. The most common method of discovery is if your child receives a bill or credit card in the mail, according to credit report company Experian. Other signs can include getting bills or notices from the IRS that your child didn’t pay taxes or if your child was turned down for government benefits. In the latter situation, it could be because another benefit account is tied to his or her social security number.
Child identity theft doesn’t receive as much attention, but the issue is very much a real one. Javelin Strategy & Research found that more than 1 million children had their identities stolen in 2017, resulting in losses of $2.6 billion and more than $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses for families. This type of fraud often takes the form of social security identity theft, as children often have no established credit history.
Reporting this type of fraud will be similar to the rest, as we’ll outline below, though, you may also want to contact the company where the fraud occurred to ensure your child isn’t liable and the account is closed.
4. Other Social Security Identity Theft
Sometimes identity thieves will use social security numbers to get a job. If you receive a check from an unknown employer, someone else may have your social security number. Businesses also report employee incomes to the IRS. So if you’re trying to file your taxes and you get a message from the IRS saying you haven’t reported all your income, your social security number might be compromised.
If you’ve detected identity theft, contact one of the big three credit reporting companies to report a fraud alert and consider asking each for a credit freeze. Credit freezes will restrict access to your credit report, making it more difficult for identity thieves to use your information to start new accounts. (Note that they will not help with existing accounts.)
With children, the three companies can remove accounts, inquiries and collection notices associated with your kids’ identities.
File a police report and a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission here, and if you find your social security number has been compromised, contact the Social Security Administration.
Wondering how you can get ahead of it all and ensure that your information is locked away? Many companies offer identity theft protection and credit protection through both monitoring and alerts.
Are you a Kinetic by Windstream customer? Check out our Windstream Shield packages — all with personal identity theft protection and credit score access and monitoring through CreditGuard and antivirus/malware protection through McAfee — for your Kinetic internet.