December 3, 2011
It has been a profitable week for retailers. According to comScore, online sales rose 22% to reach a new all-time single day high of $1.25 billion. A separate report by IBM’s Benchmark research firm, reported a 33% Cyber Monday increase, but didn’t provide an actual dollar value.
The volume of internet sales highlights the comfort consumers have with online shopping, whether that is via computer, or increasingly, through mobile transactions. Last year 2.3% of Cyber Monday shopping occurred via mobile phone, this year that has increased to 6.6%[i].
Yet in spite of the convenience online shopping offers, too few consumers have adequately protected their devices or their information, too few carefully research the stores and store policies on sites they use, and during this busy season many will fail to closely monitor their credit card statements for signs of fraud. And the crooks are counting on these gaps.
To be safer when shopping see the blog I posted last week titled 6 Steps to Avoiding Black Friday Scams, but after you’ve shopped, stay alert. Watch your credit card statements. Check your credit scores. And act swiftly if something seems amiss.
Take 8 immediate steps if you discover that you have been the victim of identity theft:
- Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three consumer reporting companies:
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
- Close any account that you know or believe has been taken over, or been opened by, ID thieves. Your credit card companies have 24 hour call service where you can report the theft or abuse of your card. Check the statements of any other credit cards you have to see if the thieves have also compromised those cards. Ask your credit card company to send you any dispute forms you may need to fill out.
- Check your credit report to look for credit cards or loans you did not open. By law you have the right to three free credit reports per year; from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. If you have already used these free reports, pay the few bucks to get your credit scores checked again.All three credit bureaus work together through a website called AnnualCreditReport.com so you can quest one, or all three reports at once in one of the following ways:
- Go to the Web site. Through this highly secure site, you can instantly see and print your credit report.
- Call toll-free: (877) 322-8228. You’ll go through a simple verification process over the phone after which they’ll mail the reports to you.
- Request by mail. If you live in certain states, fill out the request form and mail it to the Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. (Get more details.)
- File a complaint with the FTC. A typical police report doesn’t contain the details about fraudulently opened accounts or accounts used by ID thieves. By reporting the ID theft to the FTC and filling out an ID Theft Complaint, you can add the supporting detail to a police report that is necessary to making it an Identity Theft Report.
- What should I know before filling out the FTC’s ID Theft Complaint Form?
- Instructions for completing the ID Theft Complaint Form
- What should I know once I’ve filled out and printed the FTC’s ID Theft Complaint Form?
- File a report with your local police. Filing a police report helps document that the crime occurred. Call your local law enforcement office and ask if you can come in and file the report in person or if this needs to be done online or by phone. Some jurisdictions are reluctant to let you file a report, so you may have to contact your state Attorney General’s office to learn whether the law requires the police to take your ID theft report. To find the contact information for the Attorney General in your state you can check www.naag.org.
- Notify your health insurance carrier. Identity theft can also be used to commit medical fraud where someone poses as you to have medicines, checkups, even surgeries performed in your name. By contacting your insurance provider, you alert them to take extra precautions and can help prevent receiving a bill for someone else’s medical expenses.
- Set up a fraud alert. There are two kinds of fraud alerts, an ‘initial fraud alert’ that stays on your credit report for 90 days, and an ‘extended fraud alert’ that stays on your credit report for 7 years.You can set up an initial fraud alert the moment you suspect trouble – you can’t find your wallet, or you think you have been or will be a victim of ID theft (for example, you receive a notice from a company or bank you use notifying you that their data center has been breached and your information may be compromised). With this initial alert in place, potential creditors have to take additional precautions to be sure that new credit isn’t given to the ID thieves by verifying your identity.
To set up an extended fraud alert you have to have been a victim of ID theft and be able to prove this by showing one of the credit scoring companies your Identity Theft Report (see step #4). When an extended fraud alert is in place, creditors are required to contact you or meet you in person to verify your identity before they can extend credit.
- Stay alert. Watch for additional signs of identity theft like:
- False information on your credit reports, including your Social Security number, address(es), name or employer’s name.
- Missing bills or other mail. If your bills don’t arrive, or come late, contact your creditors. A missing bill may indicate that an ID thief has hijacked your account and changed your billing address to help hide the crime.
- Getting new credit cards sent to you that you didn’t apply for.
- Having a credit approval denied or being subjected to high interest rates for no apparent reason.
- Receiving calls or notices about past due bills for products or services you didn’t buy.
Once your identity has been stolen, you should also consider subscribing to a service that will constantly monitor your credit and alert you if something changes. Even though you change your credit card number, you aren’t likely to have changed companies, or changed your name, your social security number, your address, etc., and it is a stupid criminal who throws away such valuable information. In all likelihood, you will remain more vulnerable to future attacks and should monitor and protect accordingly.