Your Identity Theft Defense: Act Like a Security Guard

Illustration of a laptop with fishing hooks pulling up an account with login access, and a credit card

Has your identity been stolen or comprised? Sometimes you are notified of a data breach or ID fraud with a blast of apologetic emails or company press releases promising you a year of free credit monitoring. More often, ID scams are subtle, with thieves banking on you dismissing the signs as a computer error, or a credit card glitch, or “they’ve simply confused me with another person”.

NOPE, ID thieves aren’t confused; they’re devious and they want your money.

If you have noticed any of the following signs of ID scam, you will want to follow up and put safeguards in place:

  • You see withdrawals or deposits in your bank account that you cannot explain.
  • You receive an unexpected or incorrect 1099-G from Treasury.
  • You unexpectedly do not receive your bills or other mail.
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that are not yours.
  • You find discrepancies and unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  • You get notices that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
  • You receive statements from your medical insurance provider for services you never received.
  • Your credit card is declined, or you receive a new credit card in the mail you did not request. [See Warning Signs of Identity Theft for full list of red flags.]

Begin your investigation by calling your financial institution and credit card companies (do not call the number listed in a potentially fraudulent email). Close any financial or credit accounts that have been tampered with or opened without your permission.

Obtain your free annual credit report and examine it closely for errors, suspicious activity or new accounts.

Your best form of protection against ID theft is performing your own personal security maintenance. Pay attention to your monthly paper and online financial statements. Change the passwords on your online accounts to pass-phrases. Remove personal details from your social media and set your accounts to ‘private’. And do NOT carry your Social Security card in your wallet!

It can be difficult to block all access to your finances from hackers and scammers, but spotting identification theft early can halt a theft’s effects from spiraling out of control. No one wants to spend weeks/months/years of their life unraveling stolen identification and correcting a bad credit report.

If necessary, follow through by reporting and resolving ID issues with these steps from the State of Michigan website:

If your Social Security number (SSN) is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, it is recommended that you follow these steps:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS or any other state notice; call the number provided.
  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit if your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your Social Security number (SSN) or you are instructed to do so. Attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.
  • If you are a resident of the state of Michigan or believe identity theft has occurred in Michigan, please call (517) 636–4486.
  • Please forward all required documentation to the Identity Theft Unit, Income Tax Division, P.O. Box 30477, Lansing, MI 48909.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.identitytheft.gov. This helpful site will help you create a recovery plan, walk you through each recovery step, update your plan as needed, track your progress, and pre-fill forms and letters for you.
  • The FTC also contains sample letters www.identitytheft.gov/Sample-Letters to assist you with resolving issues with the credit bureaus, credit card issuers, and other companies with which you may do business.
  • Contact one of three major credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert” on your credit records:
  • Equifax, www.equifax.com, 1–888–766–0008
  • Experian, www.experian.com, 1–888–397–3742
  • TransUnion, www.transunion.com, 1–800–680–7289

Defensive identity theft information may be your most important personal take-away from October’s CyberSecurity Awareness Month. Save the listed resources and file this article under ‘Don’t Need Until I REALLY, REALLY DO’. Take protective action, and hopefully you really won’t. ~

Illustration of an identity thief in a mask holding a large cell phone with login access. Profile pic on cell phone has a very unhappy face.

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Michigan Department of Treasury

The Department of Treasury is committed to maintaining Michigan’s financial integrity. Contact: 517-335-7508