Hackers and thieves are working overtime to steal information from innocent victims for identity theft. Millions of Americans suffer from identity theft each year. Keep reading to learn what you can do to stay safe.
What Does Someone Do With Your Identity?
According to the FTC, once cybercriminals have your information, they can drain your bank accounts, rent property in your name, receive medical treatment under your account, open new accounts, charge items to your credit cards and even file a tax return and get your refund mailed to them! The worst thing is that they could commit crimes using your name, and now you have a warrant out for your arrest or a black mark on your criminal record.
Personal information is like gold on the dark web because it’s so valuable to criminals. The items most sought after are your social security number, banking account details, and credit card numbers. Your date of birth and mother’s maiden name are also useful to thieves.
Signs That Someone Stole Your Identity
The best way to protect your identity is to keep a close eye on things. Some signs that someone has stolen your identity are:
1. Credit Report Inaccuracies, Denied Credit, or a Drop in Your Score
Always keep a close eye on your credit reports (at least once a year). If you notice any unauthorized activity, you are denied credit, or your score drops, it could be a sign of identity theft. Once thieves have access to your social security number and date of birth, they can open new accounts in your name. They could also open new accounts that they never pay, and your credit score will suffer.
2. Charges on Your Credit Cards or Bank Statements
If you notice unauthorized charges on your credit card statements or withdrawals from your bank account, someone could have access to your information. Keep a close eye on all your accounts, and at the first sign of anything suspicious, contact your bank and speak with the fraud department.
3. You Receive Bills for New Accounts You Never Opened
Identity thieves sometimes open a new credit card, utility, or other types of accounts in your name. If they want to remain undetected, they will have the statements sent elsewhere, but if they use your address and you receive bills for services or products you never purchased, your identity may be compromised. Contact the vendor immediately to ask questions and close the account.
4. You Stop Receiving Bank Statements or Other Bills
One way identity thieves steal your information is by swiping your mail. Once they have control of an account, they may redirect the bills, so you don’t see the activity and enormous debt they are charging in your name. If you stop receiving mail for one of your accounts, inquire with the company about what is going on. If the address was changed by someone other than you, there is your answer.
5. The Cable or Electricity is Shut Off for Non-Payment
Sometimes identity thieves take over accounts and max them out. With your cell phone carrier, they may add new lines, order phones, and then never pay the bill. Once you are shut off and contact them, you will find out why. If thieves reroute your bills and you don’t notice, they can do a lot of damage before you figure out what has happened.
6. Debt Collectors Call When You Don’t Owe Anything
A common tactic is for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name and then not pay. However, since they provided the credit card company with your name, address, and phone number, you are the one who will get the collection calls. You may have to make a few calls to get that fixed, and the debts dismissed.
7. Your Tax Return is Rejected, and the IRS Says You Already Filed
If you file your tax return and the IRS rejects it claiming you already filed under your social security number and the refund was issued to another address, the chances are high that someone has stolen your identity.
8. You Receive Medical Bills for Services That Are Not Yours
When you receive medical bills for treatment or services you didn’t get or are told you are maxed out and never used your plan, it could just be a clerical error or identity theft.
9. You Find out About a Warrant for Your Arrest
If you are stopped for speeding and the officer tells you there is a warrant out for your arrest when you did nothing, this could be another big red flag that an identity thief has stolen your personal details.
10. You Find out Your Information was Included in a Data Breach
If you find out that your information was involved in a data breach, take immediate proactive measures to protect your accounts by changing passwords, sign up for credit monitoring, and consult the FTC for other tips to protect your valuable identity.