Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., announced a data breach that affects 143 million consumers. The hackers accessed Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
Equifax has launched a tool that will let you know if you were affected by the breach. Visit Equifax’s website dedicated to this breach to learn if you were impacted. You will need to provide your last name and the last six numbers of your Social Security number.
If you are impacted, Equifax offers you a free credit monitoring service, TrustedIDPremier. However, you won’t be able to enroll in it immediately. You will be given a date when you can return to the site to enroll. Equifax will not send you a reminder to enroll. Mark that date on your calendar, so you can start monitoring your credit as soon as possible.
If you detect suspicious activity on your credit report due to the breach, learn how to report it immediately.
Identity (ID) theft happens when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud.
The identity thief may use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name.
You may not know that you’re the victim of ID theft immediately. You could be a victim if you receive:
Bills for items you didn't buy
Debt collection calls for accounts you didn't open
Denials for loan applications
Children and seniors are both vulnerable to ID theft.Child ID theft may go undetected for many years. Victims may not know until they’re adults, applying for their own loans. Seniors are vulnerable because they share their personal information often with doctors and caregivers. The number of people and offices that access their information put them at risk.
Types of ID Theft
There are several common types of identity theft that can affect you:
Tax ID theft - Someone uses your Social Security number to falsely file tax returns with the IRS or your state
Medical ID theft - Someone steals your Medicare ID or health insurance member number. Thieves use this information to get medical services or send fake bills to your health insurer.
Social ID theft - Someone uses your name and photos to create a fake account on social media
Take steps to avoid being a victim of identity theft. Secure your internet connections, use security features, and review bills. Read more about how you can prevent identity theft.
If you report identity theft online, you will receive an identity theft report and a recovery plan. Create an account on the website to update your recovery plan, track your progress, and receive prefilled form letters to send to creditors. If you decide not to create an account, you need to print or save your identity theft report and recovery plan. Without an account, you won't be able to access them on the website in the future. Download the FTC's publication for detailed tips, checklists, and sample letters.
You can also report identity theft to the FTC by phone at 1-877-438-4338. The FTC will collect the details of your situation, but won't give you an ID theft report or recovery plan. You may also choose to report your identity theft to your local police station. It could be necessary if:
You know the identity thief
The thief used your name in any interaction with the police
A creditor or another company affected by the identity theft requires you to provide a police report.
Report Specific Types of Identity Theft
You may also report specific types of identity theft to other federal agencies.
Tax Identity Theft - Report this type of ID theft to the Internal Revenue Service and your state’s Department of Taxation or Revenue.
Report Identity Theft to Other Organizations
You can also report the theft to other organizations, such as:
Credit Reporting Agencies - Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies to place fraud alerts or freezes on your accounts. With a freeze in place no one can apply for credit with your name or social security number. Also get copies of your credit reports, to be sure that no one has already tried to get unauthorized credit accounts with your personal information. Confirm that the credit reporting agency will alert the other two credit reporting agencies.
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You may not be aware of the problem until you E-file your tax return and find out that another return has already been filed using your Social Security number. If the IRS suspects tax ID theft, they will send a 5071C letter to the address on the federal tax return. Keep in mind, the IRS will never start contact with you by sending an email, text, or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. Watch out for IRS imposter scams, when someone contacts you saying they work for the IRS.
Report Tax ID Theft
If you suspect you have become a victim of tax ID theft—or the IRS sends you a letter or notice indicating a problem—take these steps:
Medical identity theft can occur when someone steals your personal identification number to obtain medical care, buy medication, access your medical records, or submit fake claims to your insurer or Medicare in your name.
Report Medical Identity Theft
If you believe you have been a victim of medical identity theft, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 (TTY: 1-866-653-4261) and your health insurance company’s fraud department. You can report the theft through IdentityTheft.gov to share with the FTC and with law enforcement. Also get copies of your medical records and work with your doctor's office and insurance company to correct them.
If you suspect that you have been the victim of Medicare fraud, contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General at 1-800-447-8477.
Prevent Medical Identity Theft
Take these steps to prevent medical identity theft:
Guard your Social Security, Medicare, and health insurance identification numbers. Only give your number to your physician or other approved health care providers.
Review your explanation of benefits or Medicare Summary Notice to make sure that the claims match the services you received. Report questionable charges to your health insurance provider or Medicare.
Request and carefully review a copy of your medical records for inaccuracies and conditions that you don’t have.