It’s an unfortunate reality that in today’s world, there are scammers out there who will do everything they can to try to steal your money through fraud. While we try to do our best to avoid fraud, it can happen. If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, know that you’re not alone and there are things you can do to prevent and overcome this. We’re here to help you in identifying fraud and keeping your information safe.
What is Fraud and Identity Theft?
Fraud is when someone illegally deceives you for their own gain. A fraudster intentionally uses tricks and tactics – whether that’s in-person, or through mail, email, phone, websites or social media – to take your personal or financial information and use it illegally. Types of fraud include credit card fraud, tax fraud, bankruptcy fraud, insurance fraud and more. Fraud can happen to an individual, multiple individuals or a company as a whole.
Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information and uses it to impersonate you for their own financial gain. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your information to take your money, credit card information, tax information, insurance information and more without your knowledge or consent. Identity theft can happen due to data breaches, unsecure internet use, dark web marketplaces, computer viruses, credit card theft, phishing attacks, and more.
How to Check for Identity Theft
Of curse, we all want to prevent identity theft from ever happening. However, it’s best to monitor your accounts and check for signs that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Identifying fraud as ealy as possible can help you get the issue resolved as quickly and easily as possible.
Actively Monitor Your Financial Accounts
Always review your bank statements and financial accounts to make sure that you recognize all of the charges and withdrawals happening. If there are charges on your accounts that aren’t familiar to you, research them and report them immediately.
Regularly Review Your Bills
Make sure that you’re receiving all of the bills that you should be. If you stop getting a bill that you should be, it could be a sign that someone has changed your billing address. Regularly review all the bills you receive to make sure that you recognize the charges.
Review Your Credit Report
Any new financial accounts that are created with your name and information will show up on your credit report. You should review your reports regularly with all major credit reporting agencies and report any accounts that you don’t recognize. You can request a copy of your credit report each year for free from the three major credit reporting agencies.
Recognize the Signs of Fraud
Warning signs of fraud vary, but there are a few telltale signs can help you identifying fraud. If you see any unusual or unfamiliar charges on your credit card or withdrawals from your bank accounts, you may be a victim of fraud. You should also watch for any unexplained accounts or entries on your credit report.
Watch for these additional signs that you might be a victim of fraud:
- Any notifications about address, password or account changes that you didn’t make.
- You’re denied from opening a new credit card account with a response that doesn’t make sense about something on your credit report.
- Banks and financial institutions freeze your accounts unexpectedly or contact you about unexpected activity on your account.
- Checks numbers are significantly out of order on your bank statement.
- You receive credit cards that you didn’t apply for.
- Debt collectors contact you about merchandise that you didn’t buy or accounts that you didn’t open.
Start Detecting Fraud
Monitoring Your Accounts
We can’t stress enough how important it is to continue to monitor all of your financial accounts for unexpected charges or unfamiliar withdrawals. You should be regularly reviewing all of your bank statements and logging into your bank’s customer portal to make sure there aren’t any fraudulent charges happening on your account.
Observe User and Shipping Locations
You should regularly review your billing and shipping addresses on all accounts and sites you frequently visit. Make sure that there haven’t been any unexpected updates to that address so your information is being directed to any location other than where you live. You should do the same thing with your IP address. Know your IP address and make sure that accounts that have your information are only seeing logins from your IP address.
Use Online Tools and Services
There are many online tools and services you can use to help you detect fraud. You can review the FTC’s recommendations for what to look for in a service here. When sharing your personal information with any service, you should be very cautious and do extensive research to make sure the service is trustworthy.
Know the Scams
Since scammers are always updating their methods of getting your information, it’s impossible to list every scam that’s out there right now. There are lists like this one from Experian to give you an idea. There are some general guidelines that scams follow and you should use these to better understand what a scam could look like.
Too Good to Be True
The golden rule about all scams is that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If someone reaches out to you with money rewards, lottery winnings or gifted sums of money, it could very well be a scam. Always be cautious when someone tells you that you’ve won something, but you need to provide a bunch of personal information to receive it. If you feel like it’s too good to be true, it very well could be.
Request for Money
If someone requests money from you, whether that’s in the form of a wire transfer, credit card number, bank account number or gift card purchases, you should be very cautious. If the person claims to be someone you know personally, call them on the phone or talk to them in person to verify that it’s really them and not a scammer. If you don’t know the person asking for money, proceed with caution and do your research to make sure they have a valid need before ever giving them money or your information.
Shady Sellers or Buyers: Beware
If you’re selling or buying anything on the Internet, you need to be extremely cautious and make sure you’re only working with credible people. You should never exchange money with someone who you haven’t met in person or spoken with directly on the phone. If you’re buying a product or service online, do your research to make sure they are credible before you give them any money.
What to Do After Detecting Fraud
Take Action Immediately
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, acting fast can prevent further fraud and extra hassle. If the fraud involves your bank account or credit card, report it right away to your financial institution. And if you see something unusual on your credit report, you should report it right away to the credit bureau and request a security freeze. You should also report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and change logins and passwords to your accounts immediately. You may also wish to report fraud to the local police, especially if money has been taken from your account.
Change Compromised Accounts
If your bank account or credit card information has been stolen, your financial institution can help you get a new credit card and account number. If you have direct deposit, automatic bill pay, or saved credit card information linked to online accounts, you may want to take extra steps to update your personal information, login information and payment options. It’s always a good idea to be cautious about where you store your credit card info and who you give access to your accounts.
Stay on Top of Monitoring Accounts and Credit Reports
In the weeks and months following an incident of fraud, you should pay extra attention to your bank accounts, credit cards, and credit reports. Check accounts daily, if possible, and monitor your credit score weekly. Of course, if you see any unusual activity, you should report it right away to your bank and the credit bureaus as soon as possible.
Prevent Fraud Before It Happens
In general, you should always be suspicious of opportunities that seem too good to be true, investments that claim “no risk,” or any sense of urgency behind a requested activity. Do your homework and research the opportunity thoroughly before taking action. Don’t give away your personal, credit card, or bank account information to anyone you don’t know and trust. And, don’t click on unusual or suspicious email or text message links or respond to suspicious, unsolicited calls or voicemails.