Identity theft can happen to even the most careful consumers. When prevention fails, the next best thing is early detection. Fair Isaac, the company that created the FICO credit score, said there are a number of warning signs of identity theft. They include:
- Unexpected phone calls from unfamiliar creditors Be suspicious if a creditor demands payment for a purchase you did not make.
- Strange credit card charges Match your receipts with the charges on your monthly billing statements.
- Getting turned down for credit unexpectedly Many consumers discover they are identity theft victims when an application for credit is declined.
- Account user names and passwords or ATM PINs stop working An identity thief may have changed your access codes.
- Missing bills Some identity thieves change the address on existing accounts so they can open new accounts and use bank accounts without your knowledge.
- Strange information in your credit files Although some mistakes in credit reports are human errors, others may signal an identity theft has opened credit in your name.
If you find evidence of identity theft, notify the fraud departments at the major credit bureaus. Here is the contact information: Equifax, Consumer Fraud Division: 1-800-525-6285; Experian: 1-888-397-3742; or TransUnion, Fraud Victim Assistance Dept.: 1-800-680-7289.
The credit bureaus will put a fraud alert on your file, warning creditors to call for permission before opening any accounts in your name.