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Important steps to take if your identity is stolen

The pandemic has led to an increase in fraudulent activity, as well as new and ongoing online scams, including identity theft. If you receive a statement for purchases you didn’t make or medical services you didn’t receive — or even discover that someone has filed for unemployment benefits using your name and Social Security number — it’s very likely that your personal information has been stolen.

Taking action quickly — and knowing what steps to take — can help you resolve the problem and restore your financial accounts with minimal stress.

What to do if you’re a victim of financial fraud.

“It’s important to contact your financial institution right away so they can close or restrict your accounts to help protect your funds,” says Chris Garcia, Corporate Investigations Manager at Commerce Bank. Then, follow the steps below if you discover fraudulent account activity, or if you believe your identity has been stolen or compromised.

  1. Immediately notify any card issuer or company where fraudulent transactions have occurred
    and explain the situation. For purchases you didn’t make, ask the company to remove the fraudulent charges, close accounts and request a letter confirming this was done. If your debit or credit card has been stolen or compromised, request that the issuer cancel your existing card and send you a new one. Note: If you have any automatic payments related to a compromised card or bank account, be sure to update your payment information as soon as you receive your new card or account information.

  2. Contact the three major credit bureaus,
    explain what happened and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit reports. You may also want to consider placing a freeze on your credit. This prevents credit bureaus from sharing your credit report with others who request it and makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. There’s no charge to request an alert or a freeze.

  3. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
    if you’ve experienced identity theft. You’ll receive a recovery plan, as well as prefilled letters and forms you can use to dispute fraudulent charges. You’ll also find additional resources on the FTC website to help you with various types of fraud.

    In addition, the FTC encourages victims to share their story on the agency’s report fraud site which helps investigators build a case against scammers and helps reduce future fraud in general.

  4. File a police report
    with your local police department. Give them a copy of your FTC report, which helps prove you’re a victim and helps you maintain a documented paper trail. (Keep in mind that a stolen credit card number that results in an unauthorized charge is not the same thing as identify theft and doesn’t need be reported to the FTC or local authorities.)

It’s also a good idea to alert the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), your employer and your health insurance company if your Social Security number was used fraudulently.

Tips to help protect your financial information.

Garcia recommends using strong passwords, reviewing your bank and credit card statements carefully for any unauthorized charges and limiting the number of credit cards you carry when you leave your home. In addition, he recommends covering PIN pads with your other hand whenever entering your PIN during a transaction.

“It’s also wise to be mindful of your social media presence and avoid sharing too much personal information that a stranger (a.k.a., fraudster) could access, like an address or phone number in your public profile,” explains Garcia.

Other ways to help protect your personal financial information include:

  • Use secure and reputable websites and avoid using public Wi-Fi (including hot spots) for any financial transactions. Keep in mind that website URLs starting with https don’t necessarily mean the site is secure, it just means the information being transmitted is secure.
  • If you receive a shopping deal via an email from a company, even one you’re familiar with, don’t click the link embedded in the email. Instead, go directly to the company’s website.
  • Monitor your credit reports regularly and be on the lookout for any accounts or information you don’t recognize.
  • Protect sensitive documents and shred those you no longer need.
  • Enroll in fraud text alerts via online or mobile banking.

Avoid these red flags.

In addition to being aware of these common scams, reduce the chance that your financial information will be compromised by being alert to these warning signs:

  • Emails or texts that ask you to verify personal information by clicking a link
  • Phone calls or robocalls from someone claiming to be with a financial institution requesting personal information
  • Loose or unusually bulky ATM or point-of-sale machines (like at a gas station), which could indicate a skimming device is being used

Commerce Bank is here to help.

At Commerce, we recognize that protecting your financial accounts and managing your identity is more important than ever. Commerce Bank customers can sign up for identity theft services including Commerce ID Recover and Commerce ID Monitor which provide extra protection for your financial accounts.

If you’re ever worried that your Commerce Bank accounts have been compromised, or if you’re curious about how Commerce helps keep accountholder information safe, contact us any time.

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