Protecting Your Identity
Identity theft is so common, it can feel like a foregone conclusion. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help mitigate the chances this happens to you and help minimize the impact if it occurs.
If you learn that your personal or financial information was compromised, act quickly to report potential fraud or identity theft.
Safeguarding Your Identity
If you have a digital presence, you are at risk of cyber identity theft. Your personal information exists online across different platforms and is often legally sold or shared with other companies. If even one of these companies is hacked, you could be an identity thief’s next target.
Consider the following suggestions to help safeguard your identity: 1
Be Cyber Smart.
Visit our Be Cyber Smart page to learn about the precautions you can take to secure your online accounts and devices.
Manage your digital footprint.
Visit our Your Digital Footprint page to learn about the information that makes up your online presence.
Consider freezing your credit.
Contact each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—individually to freeze your credit. Note that a credit freeze prevents anyone from applying for new credit under your name, even you, so the next time you apply for a loan, you will need to direct the three bureaus to unfreeze your credit. However, this extra work upfront will greatly mitigate the chances a bad actor builds up debt in your name.
Consider identity theft protection services.
Identity theft protection services, which you can purchase from major insurance companies, can help you recover from the costs related to identity theft. Many plans include credit monitoring and dark web surveillance to alert you if your information is stolen or being used for fraud.
Watch for small charges.
Monitor your accounts closely for charges you did not make. Even small charges can be a red flag. Thieves will sometimes withdraw a small amount of money from your account, then return to take more if the small amount goes unnoticed.
Be immediately suspicious if you receive a letter or email from a government entity or bank about activity you do not recognize. While this can be a sign of identity theft, it is also a common phishing tactic that bad actors use to trick you into sharing personal information. Contact the entity through a trusted channel to validate the notification, such as the phone number listed on the official company website. Do not click on links or use the contact information within the email.
Detecting Identity Theft
Managing your digital footprint and securing your online accounts can minimize your risk of identity theft, but it is also important to watch for signs that someone is fraudulently using your information.
Consider the following examples of how an identity thief might use stolen information, so that you can identify the signs that someone is using your personal information for fraud. 2 3
Review your credit reports.
Bad actors may open a line of credit with your social security number and rack up debt in your name. Review your credit reports regularly for any accounts you did not open or inquiries you do not recognize. In the United States, you can request a free copy of your credit report annually from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Monitor your accounts.
Fraudsters may be using your credit cards or withdrawing from your accounts. Review your bank statements regularly for any charges or payments that you did not make. Many banks also allow you to sign up for email, text messages, or other notifications for irregular payments and other transactions, so that you can monitor your account activity in real time.
Pay attention to notices from the government.
An identity thief may use your Social Security number to work or claim unemployment. Watch out for a notice from the IRS that more than one tax return has been filed in your name, as this may be a sign of tax identity theft. You might also receive a notice that you have income from an employer that you do not work for.
Review medical and insurance statements.
A fraudster may use your health insurance to get medical care. Review your medical bills and insurance statements for services you did not receive or prescription medications you do not take, as these could be a sign of medical identity theft.
You may not know you are a victim of identity theft until you apply for credit or get called by a debt collector. Try to stay ahead of the bad actors by being proactive and monitoring all your accounts regularly.
Reporting Identity Theft
If you suspect that someone is fraudulently using your personal information, you should report the activity right away. Consider: 4
Contacting the organization involved in the fraud, as soon as possible.
Contact the company’s fraud department and ask them to freeze your accounts. You should also change your account credentials as soon as possible to ensure that only you can log in and manage your account.
Placing a fraud alert on your credit report.
A fraud alert is a notice placed on your credit report to alert creditors that you may have been a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert makes it more difficult for someone to open new accounts in your name, because businesses must verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name. 5 Contact each of the three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to request a fraud alert.
Reporting the incident to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at
IdentityTheft.gov is the U.S. federal government’s resource for identity theft victims. Filing an identity theft report with the FTC proves to businesses that someone stole your identity, and you will need this report to correct your credit report and remove fraudulent charges from your accounts.
Contacting regional FBI and local police.
In addition to reporting the fraud to the FTC, you can choose to file a report with local law enforcement.
The above steps are only the beginning; depending on your situation, you may need to take additional steps or contact additional offices. Visit the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website for more information, including this checklist to help you navigate the reporting and recovery process.
Mitigating the Damage
After freezing your accounts and reporting the fraud, consider the following steps to help regain control of your accounts: 4
Notify your insurance company.
Contact your insurance company to ask if you have identity theft protection included in your policies. If you have identity theft protection services, your insurer can help you regain control of your identity.
Close fraudulent accounts opened in your name.
Contact the companies involved in the fraud and ask them to close the new accounts opened under your name.
Remove fraudulent charges from your accounts.
Similarly, contact any companies where the thief made charges on your account. Ask the companies to remove these fraudulent charges.
Correct your credit report.
When someone steals your identity, you have the right to remove fraudulent information from your credit report. Contact each of the three credit bureaus and ask them to block the fraudulent information from your report.
Update your account settings and credentials.
Anytime you suspect that one of your accounts has been compromised, you should immediately change your account password. After doing so, consider reviewing your account settings to ensure that your account is configured appropriately. Be especially cautious of changes to your contact information, as you don’t want someone else to receive messages about your account.
Additional Consumer Protection Information
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed protection against identity theft. The above tips can help reduce your risk, but this is not an exhaustive list of all cybersecurity best practices. Please remain vigilant and, for more information, review the references below.
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Report Suspicious Activity
If you are a current First American customer, please report any suspicious activity directly to your First American representative through an independently verified telephone number.
If you are not a current customer, be cautious of:
- Phishing emails or websites spoofing First American.
- Unexpected phone calls from someone claiming to be a First American employee.
- Questionable text messages about your First American account or activity.
If you encounter any of the above, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you verify the message or website.
Nothing is too trivial to report. If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a message from us, please report it.