The thought of someone opening a credit card in your name, maxing it out, and decimating your credit score, is one of the biggest financial fears for many people. With anxiety about fraudulent cards and credit scams instilled into much of the population since early adulthood, many people take steps to stop it from happening.
While many credit card companies have integrated security systems and two-step authentication to minimize the risk of fraud, if you suspect there is some suspicious activity going on with your finances, it is crucial to understand how you can tell if someone has opened a credit card in your name.
Contact Your Credit Card Company’s Fraud Department
If you suspect someone has opened an account in your name, contact your credit card issuer. The sooner you catch the fraudulent activity, the earlier you can put a stop to it before any lasting damages occur.
If your credit card has been stolen but has not been used yet, this early communication between you and your credit card issuer allows them to detect any future purchases that you did not make.
If the card has been used, making the early call can still prevent the fraud from worsening.
Review Your Credit Records and Reports
Once you’ve reported your credit card as stolen, review all your credit reports from the three primary bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You can either request a free copy of your credit report via Annual Credit Report or from each of the credit companies individually. However, you can only access one of these reports every 12 months for free.
When reviewing your personal reports and records, ensure that all accounts listed belong to you, and the account amounts are accurate. If you come across any new accounts that you did not open, it’s critical you raise them with each credit bureau. Let them know that the balance on this particular account is an act of fraud.
As soon as the credit bureaus confirm with the credit companies that the fraud claim is honest, they will take action and remove the specific accounts from your report. This step is critical, as accounts that are opened as an act of fraud rarely have any payments made on them. This has the potential to lower your credit score and limit your personal finance options.
Report the Identity Theft
You should also report identity theft as a separate issue to ensure all aspects of the scam are covered. The first part of this process is to file a police report, ensuring you keep all the details available and organized; if legal action is needed, you’ll have all the information readily available.
You should then report the identity theft and fraudulent activities to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), so they can help you develop a recovery plan. Helping you sort through every aspect of your personal situation, they may even offer you a free credit freeze.
Contact the Fraud Department of All Businesses
Once you have all the information needed, you should approach the fraud department of any business the identity thief opened an account with or charged for services and products. You should contact them and request that they remove the charges and close the fraudulent accounts.
Once these requests have been made, you should ask each business to send a confirmation letter detailing how you are not financially accountable for any charges or opened accounts due to identity fraud. The letter should also state that the accounts have been removed or closed.
It’s essential to keep these letters in case any counterfeit purchases reappear in a later credit report. You should also keep on file the name of the business representative you spoke to, along with the date in case you need to provide these details in a legal case.
Complete an ID Theft Affidavit
An ID Theft Affidavit is a document that amalgamates all the data linking to your personal identity theft. It keeps it all in one place, so it makes it easier for you to prove the fraudulent activity, and your personal financial data was used to open a fake account.
You should complete the document after you’ve gathered all the other information in the previous steps.
Ensure Your Credit is Protected
If you’re looking to prevent future scams or theft, you can request an extended fraud alert. This lasts for 7 years. Alternatively, you can choose a credit freeze that prohibits access to your credit reports until you remove the freeze temporarily. To perform either of these actions, you should contact each credit bureau.
Initiating, removing, or reintroducing an extended fraud alert is free.
You can also monitor your credit constantly to ensure suspicious activity can be caught straight away. You can do this by ordering free credit reports annually. These reports are crucial for noticing or clearing up any other forms of identity theft before they damage your credit score and stop you from applying for a new credit card or even a personal loan or mortgage.
You can also invest in identity theft prevention software, such as LifeLock. The program monitors the use of your name, address, and social security number in applications and patrols the dark web for your personal information. It also comes with Equifax credit monitoring and automatically alerts you to any suspicious activity. But best of all, it comes with up to $25,00 in financial reimbursement if you are the victim of credit card fraud while using the program.
Keep Your Financial Data Safe
If you are worried about the potentialities of someone opening a credit card in your name, or you are already suspicious of identity theft, taking these steps can help you find out if fraudulent activity is being used against you.
From regularly reviewing your personal accounts and records to ensuring your data is protected, you’ll be able to catch identity theft in its early stages and prevent it from damaging your credit score and finances.