What to do if your identity is stolen McAfee Blog


We’re online these days, sharing everything we eat for breakfast, from holiday pictures. The Internet is also useful for everyday activities, such as buying groceries or paying bills.

While it is convenient to connect with people and complete tasks online, cybercriminals are keen to use the Internet to steal financial or personal data for their personal gain – otherwise known as identity theft. This is a criminal act and it can affect your credit score in a negative way and cost money to fix. It can also affect employment opportunities as some employers conduct credit checks on top of drug tests and check a criminal history. Victims of identity theft can affect their mental health as they work to resolve their cases.

The good news is that being able to recognize the signs of identity theft means you can act quickly to intervene and minimize any impact on you. You can also protect yourself by using preventative measures and engaging in smart online behavior. This article provides you with the information you need to know about identity theft, the tools you need to be an empowered Internet user, and the tools you need to live your life online.

If your identity is stolen, you need to take 5 steps

The internet is a great place, but identity thieves expect to get stuck and ask for access to your personal information for their convenience. This may include personal details such as your date of birth, bank account information, social security number, home address and much more. With this type of data, a person can take your identity (or even create a fake identity using a piece of your personal profile) and apply for loans, credit cards, debit cards, and more.

You don’t have to keep it in the dark though. There are a number of signs that your identity has been stolen, from changes in your credit score to unfamiliar bills and debt collectors calling for unfamiliar new accounts. If you suspect that you have been affected by identity fraud, you can act quickly to reduce what happens. What to do here.

File a police report

Get started by contacting law enforcement to file a report. Your local police department may issue an official report, which may require you to return fraudulent charges to your bank or other financial institution. An official report assures the bank that you have been affected by identity fraud and it is not a scam.

Before going to the police, gather all the relevant information about what happened. This may include the date and time of fraudulent activity and any account number affected. It may be helpful to bring a copy of your bank statement. Also, note any suspicious activity that may be related. For example, has your debit card recently been lost or has your email been hacked? The police will want to know.

Inform the company where the fraud took place

Any business involved in your identity theft case should also be notified. Depending on the type of identity theft, this could include banks, credit card companies, medical offices, health insurers, e-commerce stores, and more. For example, if someone makes purchases on Amazon using your credit card, alert the retailer.

Medical identity theft is another good example. In this case, a fraudster could take your identity to gain access to healthcare services, such as medical checkups, prescription drugs or expensive medical devices such as wheelchairs. If someone uses your health insurance to get a prescription drug from a pharmacy, be sure to warn the pharmacy and your insurer, for example.

File a report with the Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a government agency that protects the interests of consumers. You can report identity theft through their portal, IdentityTheft.gov. They will then use the details you provide to create a free recovery plan that you can use to deal with the effects of identity theft, such as contacting major credit bureaus or alerting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) fraud department. You can report your case Online Or call 1-877-438-4338.

Ask credit reporting agencies to issue a fraud alert

A common consequence of identity theft is a decrease in the credit score of victims. For example, a cybercriminal may take a new credit line in the name of the victim, deposit a credit card debt, and then fail to pay the balance. For this reason, contacting credit monitoring bureaus is one of the most important steps in identity theft.

There are three main companies: Transunion, Equifax and Experian. You can get a free credit report from each agency every 12 months AnnualCreditReport.com. Check the report and note all fraudulent activity or false information and flag with the Fraud Department of the relevant bureau. You should also start a fraud alert with each company.

Any creditor will need to verify your identity before opening a new line of credit for a fraud alert. This adds an extra layer of security. An initial fraud alert lasts 90 days. Once it expires, you can extend your protection through an extended fraud alert, which will be valid for seven years. You can notify one of the three big bureaus to set it up. They then have to inform the other two bureaus.

A credit freeze is another smart move you can make through each of the three major credit bureaus. You can either call them or start the process online. This prevents people from accessing your credit report. Lenders, creditors, retailers, landlords and others may want to look at your credit as proof of financial stability. For example, if someone tries to open a phone agreement in your name, the retailer may check the credit report. If there is a credit freeze, they will not be able to see it and will not issue the contract. If you want to allow someone to access your credit report, you can temporarily lift the fridge.

Change the passwords for all your accounts

Identity theft is often linked to leaked or hacked passwords. Even if you’re not sure if your password has been compromised, it’s best to keep it safe. Change the password of an affected account. Be sure to use strong passwords with a mix of numbers, letters and symbols. Furthermore, if you have the opportunity to enable two-factor authentication in your accounts, it may provide additional protection up front.

Is it possible to prevent identity theft?

Ideally, you will never be a victim of identity theft, but things can happen. Cybercriminals work hard, but with some preventative measures you can stay one step ahead. These include:

  • Learn how to recognize common scams. ID theft comes in many forms ranging from email phishing scams to social media snooping, device hacking and data breaches. Learn the signs of a scam. For example, phishing emails are often badly written and often follow certain formats, such as claiming that one of your accounts has been suspended.
  • Enable Fraud Alert. Most financial institutions issue warnings about suspicious fraudulent transactions, sending you a notification via phone call, text or email if they notice suspicious activity in your account. The bank may automatically freeze the account unless any potential unauthorized charges are cleared and confirmed by the account owner.
  • Protect your device with strong passwords. All your devices, including your phone, tablet, and laptop, should be password-protected. If one of your technical tools is stolen, it will be more difficult for fraudsters to access your personal data. Set strong passwords in a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Make sure they do not include information that a person can easily find out, such as your home address or birthday.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts. Any online account you use, from your banking app to your email, should be password-protected. Follow the same rules for setting strong passwords, but do not copy passwords. If a hacker cracks the code of an account, they can easily access your other account. A password manager can help you stay on top by encrypting your passwords and storing them securely for easy tracking. McAfee Identity Protection has a password manager that can protect the credentials of your account across devices.
  • Protect your documents. Protect and keep hard copies of sensitive documents such as your Social Security card and birth certificate. Also, dismantle documents with personal information. This ensures that dumpster divers will not be able to access your information. Fragmented documents may include invoices with your name, phone number and address, bank statements, medical records, canceled checks and junk mail.
  • Don’t overshare on social media. Social media is a great way to connect with friends and family, but it can also be a gold mine for identity thieves. Avoid sharing details like the names of your kids or pets, which are often used in passwords. Sensitive information such as home address or birthday can also be used to create fake identities. In addition to limiting what you share, you may want to set your social media accounts to be personal.
  • Review your credit report. You have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report every 12 months, through which you can request AnnualCreditReport.com. It provides you with a report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Review the report by verifying personal information, account details, and public records (such as bankruptcy or lien) to make sure there is nothing suspicious.
  • Follow the news. When large corporations are targeted by hackers, they are Affected consumers need to be warned. These violations are often reported in the media. For a more proactive approach, though, see the McAfee blog, which reports on violations. If any business you use is affected, change your password.

You can further protect yourself with antivirus software like McAfee’s Total Protection Plan. It can help protect your devices from spyware and viruses You can also increase your network security with a firewall and Virtual Private Network (VPN). A firewall controls traffic to your Internet network based on predefined security parameters, while a VPN hides your IP address and other personal data.

Sign up for a security plan today

Concerns about identity fraud should not prevent you from enjoying all the benefits and advantages of Internet offers. McAfee’s identity theft protection services can help you stay connected by keeping you safe. Customize your package to get your desired protections like ID theft coverage, VPN and 24/7 monitoring. Our Total Protection Plan comes with 1 Million Identity Theft Coverage so you can cover loss of eligibility and hands-on support to help you recover your identity.

With McAfee by your side, you can stay online with confidence.

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