In this article I tell you how to recognize the signs that you are a victim of identity theft. If you have landed here after searching for investigators for credit card fraud do remember that our agency is the best in Mumbai and the rest of India for investigating credit card frauds. Contact us on the number above and we will help you get back your sanity and peace of mind.
The signs of identity theft I outline are the first signs people typically notice, but you can also find clues in your bank statements, investment statements, and credit report. What you don’t know can hurt you! For details on what to look for in bank and investment statements, see my earlier post here on how to keep your personal information safe.
Suspecting a Thief at Your Mailbox
You know your normal billing cycle, and when your bills don’t arrive on time, you need to find out why. You could be the victim of mail theft. There is an old saying that nothing is definite except taxes and death, well, I would like to improvise on that and say there is nothing definite except taxes and bills. When your bills don’t simply follow these steps:
1. Contact your creditors.
Call your credit card company, gas card company, and all the others that are late, and find out if the bill is late for some reason (keep in mind that bills are almost never sent out late). Also ask when the bill was sent.
2. Besides your bills, you also receive bank statements regularly. Check your files to see when you last received your bank statements. If you have not received the statements monthly, you might be the victim of mail theft. Contact your bank and ask when your statements were sent.
To help track bills on different cycles, you can use the calendar feature in Gmail or Microsoft Outlook. You can enter the date the bill arrives and then determine when the next is due. Most bills are on a 30-day cycle. After you get the receipt for the bill, make an entry on the next month’s calendar and check the recurring event feature. You can also check the notification box so you will receive an audible notification on that day. If you don’t have access to the online calendar features, you can use any calendar to enter the information.
Recognizing When Something Is Wrong, and What You Can Do About It
There’s no question about it. It pays to monitor your bills every month using the credit card receipts for the month. This is your first line of defense against credit card fraud and identity theft. Here are the general steps you need to take if you notice charges you have not authorized on your bill:
1. Call your credit card company and dispute the charge.
Ask for the credit card fraud department. Let them know that you have been a victim of identity theft. Then point out what charges you are disputing and why. Make sure that you get the name of the person you are speaking to, correct spelling, and so on. Write it down for future reference. Follow-up your phone conversation with a dispute letter. You will receive a letter in the mail from the credit card company outlining your conversation and listing the disputed charges. For large dollar charge disputes, you should follow up your phone conversation with a letter disputing the charge.
2. File a dispute letter, as shown below:
3. Order a credit report and review it carefully. Dispute any unknown charges and information. Place a fraud alert on your credit report if you suspect you are the victim of identity theft.
4. Review all your bank statements and balances to make sure they are correct and show no signs of tampering. If you see signs of tampering, have your bank freeze the accounts. For example, look for withdrawals from your account you did not make.
5. If you suspect that you are the victim of identity theft, complete an identity theft affidavit, and send it to all of your credit accounts and your bank. The following two sections describe the most common ways that people realize their credit card or identity is being used without their authorization, and what you can do in each instance to reclaim your good credit.
Denied credit for a large purchase
The setting is a car dealership. You have the type, model, and colour of the car you have longed for. You test drive it, and you make an offer to the salesperson. You haggle for a time and finally come to an agreement. You complete the loan application. The salesperson says it will take a few minutes to run your credit report. After what seems to be an eternity, the salesperson comes back and says, “I have bad news: You were not approved for the loan.” You say, “But that can’t be — I have good credit.”
You are permitted by the Government to know the reason why you were turned down for the loan. So you should seek your credit report from CIBIL (Credit Information Bureau of India). Check this page from the CIBIL Websites on how to get to know your credit score – https://www.cibil.com/online/credit-score-check.do
After you review your credit score you may find in the worst case some credit card accounts you didn’t know you had, and that you own two other cars you have never driven or seen for that matter! What has happened here is that you are the victim of identity theft and didn’t know it. Now your work is just beginning. You must get back your good name and credit. This scenario above actually happened to a client of ours. The scenario can also easily happen to you, especially if you have good credit. I can’t stress it enough: You need to know if someone is using your credit and name without your knowledge, and one of the best ways to detect the theft early is to review your credit report regularly.
It is important to review your credit report at least annually, as well as to review your credit card and bank statements regularly. By regularly, I mean every month. When you perform the checks consistently, you will know immediately if something is wrong. The sooner you find out, the easier it is to minimize the fallout. Most people I know couldnt be bothered less to read credit card reports.
Receiving credit card bills from cards you didn’t apply for
In your mail today, you receive a surprise bill from a credit card you didn’t apply for or didn’t even know you had. The charges on the card are for things you haven’t purchased and for a trip to a place you have never been. Something is wrong. You are thinking it is probably a mistake. You double-check the name and address on the bill, and sure enough, it has your name and address. Here is what you should do right away.
1. Order your credit report and review it carefully.
2. Place a fraud alert on your credit report.
3. Complete a fraud affidavit and send it to the credit card company that sent the bill.
After you send the fraud affidavit, call the credit card company and have the card cancelled, but do not be persuaded to pay off the balance if you didn’t open the account and make the charges.
Receiving calls from bill collectors for stuff you did not buy
You are watching your favorite TV show, when suddenly the telephone rings. It is a bill collector calling about a delinquent bill. You have no idea what the caller is talking
about. You start checking, but you know you didn’t purchase the item the bill collector is talking about. Here is what you should do right away.
- Take a deep breath.
- Order a credit report from CIBIL as advised above and review it carefully. Dispute any unknown charges and information. Place a fraud alert on your credit report if you suspect you are the victim of identity theft.
- Call your credit card company and get the new charges since the last billing cycle. Dispute any charges that are not yours.
- Review all your bank statements and balances to make sure they are correct and show no signs of tampering. If you see signs of tampering, have your bank freeze the accounts.
- If you suspect that you are the victim of identity theft, complete an identity theft affidavit, and send it to all of your credit accounts and your bank.
Receiving a call from a bill collector about a delinquent bill for something you never purchased is a definite sign that something is wrong. If this happens, you most likely are the victim of identity theft, and you need to address the situation immediately.
Amit Sen, a commercial pilot by training, has over 15 years experience in the space of corporate investigations, handling Copyright & Trademark infringement cases, Pre – employment verification Industrial Espionage investigations, Asset & Net – Worth assessment assignments and vendor / supplier verification cases, among others. Co-founder of Alliance One – which is the best credit card fraud investigation company in Mumbai. Amit has also successfully completed assignments in a wide range of sectors, including the machine tools industry, pharmaceutical industry, hospitality sector, specialized equipment (Oil & natural gas sector, aviation industry etc.), telecom industry & the IT & ITes sectors. These cases have all involved both offline and online investigations