It started innocently enough, the occasional credit card solicitation sent to your address, but to a name you didn’t recognize. But over time — when the collections calls started coming, and your credit score took a precipitous dive — you began to realize that something more sinister was happening. You’ve joined the ranks of the estimated 14 million people victimized by identity theft every year.* Now what?
Sources and Signs of Identity Theft
We often think of the stealing of social security numbers or illicit credit card use as “identity theft,” but it takes numerous other forms and has a wide variety of sources. In our work as private investigators serving Fort Mill, SC and Charlotte, NC, Barefoot Professional Investigations often finds identity theft converging with other investigations we conduct, from employment background checks to child custody investigations. A spouse may use a child’s social security number to open a line of credit. A data breach may expose sensitive personal, financial, or medical information. A caretaker may target an elderly individual by clearing out a bank account or filing a fraudulent tax return. Computer viruses, scams, social engineering — your potential vulnerabilities, and the ways they can be exploited, are seemingly endless.
So how do you know if that’s happened? A few common signs include:
- Account statements, bills, or collections calls for credit cards you didn’t open.
- Bills or statements that used to arrive by mail suddenly stopping.
- An unexpected credit denial.
- Irregularities or inaccuracies in bank statements and charge account bills.
- Charges, or fraud alerts, from suspicious locations.
- Inexplicable changes to your Social Security benefits statement.
- Medical claim denials for, or based on, care you didn’t receive.
- A suspicious tax notice received, or tax return filed, in your name.
Steps to Take If Your Identity is Stolen
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, time is of the essence. Following the steps below, and documenting your progress, will be helpful on the long road to recovering your identity.
- File a police report.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft portal, identitytheft.gov, where you will find valuable advice and a roadmap to identity recovery.
- Inform each of your creditors (not just card companies, but also your bank, mortgage company, and any other applicable entities). You should also inform at least one of the major credit bureaus (once contacted, they will alert the others).
- Go over your financials, closing accounts that you didn’t open as well as any that have been targeted by fraudsters.
- Run a thorough virus scan on your computer.
- Check your credit reports, and sign up for a reputable credit monitoring service.
- Keep track of your activities — phone calls, police reports, emails, in-person conversations — and any money spent on identity recovery.
There’s one thing you absolutely should not do, and that’s ignore the theft. The damage done to your finances, your credit, and even your reputation or employment prospects can be incalculable. It’s important to act quickly.
Hiring a Charlotte Private Detective
As we mentioned earlier, identity theft takes a number of forms. In some cases, its origins will be out-of-state, or even halfway across the world. But there are also times when the culprit is much closer to home. Barefoot Professional Investigations brings a skill set to bear on fraud investigations that’s proven useful to individuals and businesses alike. Our computer forensics services can ferret out tracks and traces a criminal has taken great pains to cover — and that your antivirus might miss. We can suggest debugging and other technical surveillance countermeasures if you suspect their use. And we can conduct witness interviews that unearth vital information as well. For a free and confidential consultation, get in touch today.