Ugh, I’ve been hacked!
A few weeks ago, I woke up to a number of credit card notifications from my cell phone’s Apple Pay application. It seemed as though I had been shopping throughout the night, buying all sorts of things from different merchants—all well past my bedtime.
“Ugh,” I thought. “I’ve been hacked.”
A quick phone call to my credit card company confirmed that someone had stolen my credit card information and was buying this and that from various merchants. The thief started by making test purchases: small, one-dollar purchases from several different companies see whether the credit card number worked. Emboldened by success, the thief then began trying to make large purchases, some in faraway lands. Luckily, the credit card company had flagged those big purchases from other countries and I was able to dispute the illegitimate charges to my account.
The credit card company quickly cancelled my current card and resolved my fraudulent charges, and I was thankful that my smart phone app notified me of the credit card activity so quickly before more damage could be done.
Be aware, any time you use your credit card or debit card, you run the risk of having your identity stolen, but during the holidays, things get even riskier. Retail stores hire temporary employees who gain access to your credit information; and scammers take advantage of the high sales volume to steal our credit information. This is why now, right after the holiday season, is the best time to check your credit.
The Better Business Bureau says that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can receive one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Call 877-322-8228 or go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
It’s important to know that www.AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for free annual credit reports under federal law. Please note: AnnualCreditReport.com will not approach you via email, telemarketing, or through direct mail solicitations. They do not advertise, so a word of advice: if you’re interested in requesting a free report, go directly to the website instead of clicking on links you may see to get there. The Internet is full of false ads, spyware, and false websites, and clicking on anything free can quickly fill your computer with unwanted viruses.
The AnnualCreditReport.com website not only provides access to your credit report, it also has some great information on how to protect yourself from identity theft. The first step is to know what to look for:
Credit card charges you don't recognize
Calls or letters about things you didn't buy
Bills you don’t recognize
New credit cards or statements for accounts you didn't open
Denials of credit for no apparent reason
Information on your credit reports you don't recognize, such as accounts or addresses
If you think you’re the victim of identity theft, you should immediately place an initial fraud alert on your file. You can do this online at:
Equifax - www.equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance
Experian - www.experian.com/fraud
TransUnion - www.transunion.com/fraud
Experts recommend that you contact the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened. Follow up in writing with each company where debt was established in your name, and keep copies of the correspondence. Always ask for verification about disputed accounts and close all accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
It’s very important to complete a crime report with local law enforcement and report identity theft to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Your report helps us and other law enforcement officials across the country investigate identity thefts. Learn more by visiting https://help.consumerfinance.gov/app/creditreporting/ask.
Remember, anyone can have their identity stolen; the experience can be intrusive and disturbing. To prevent this, keep a close eye on your credit.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.