7 Signs That You’re A Victim of Identity Theft
Identity theft has many faces. However it comes about, the result is that you end up with stolen personal information, which someone else can then use for their personal gain. Crimes related to identity theft usually involve financial transactions and purchases but there are also social security identity theft, medical identity theft, child identity theft, and criminal identity theft. Synthetic identity theft is a specific form of criminal activity where the fraudster combines stolen and fake personal information to create fraudulent accounts and creates a fake personal identity.
That being said, it is of little surprise that nearly two-thirds of Americans are most afraid of crimes that involve stealing their credit card or bank account information, as well as being a victim of identity theft.
Americans Fear Identity Theft the Most
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission validates these fears, reporting over 271,000 cases in 2019 in which identity theft crimes were committed by misusing credit card information to open new and fraudulent accounts by malicious actors.
Identity theft is a growing threat and concern for every person who has personal information stored in online databases and accounts. In other words, it concerns all of us. Identity theft protection is not the responsibility of the online services and merchants we use daily. Instead, you need to proactively protect your personal information both online and on the devices you use.
How Identity Theft Happens
You can find multiple credit monitoring services and companies offering ID theft protection services. Nevertheless, you should also know the basics of protecting your sensitive information by yourself.
What that means is that you should be able to detect and recognize attempts to steal or misuse critical account information. This includes your ID card number, driver’s license, your social security number, or any other account info that might result in fraudulent activities in your name.
Sometimes it is very hard to identify the signs of identity theft without help from an identity protection service. In any case, you should make an effort to understand how to spot unauthorized use of your personal information by online and offline fraudsters.
The Most Common Ways Data is Stolen
Your data is always at risk since there is more than one method to steal your personal data. It could happen in one of the following ways:
- Data breaches in which there is a leak of your personal information which is then used fraudulently.
- Unsecure browsing can cause your account information and personal data to end up in the hands of malicious actors.
- Malware infection is always a possibility as hackers actively seek for known vulnerabilities online. Their bots are scanning the Internet for connected machines with unpatched vulnerabilities to exploit.
- Credit card skimmers are devices in use by criminals for scanning your card codes while making a purchase in a physical store or while withdrawing money at an ATM.
- Mail theft is still used by fraudsters to obtain information from physical bills or documents you typically throw away.
- Wi-Fi hacking of public networks is a common way for hackers to steal login credentials from users who use unsecured public networks.
- Mobile phone theft is another method to get access to your sensitive information. Many users allow applications to automatically connect to a service. In turn, this allows a thief to easily get details about your credit cards and personal details.
If you become a victim of a phishing attack or a data leak, your personal and account information usually ends up at a marketplace on the dark web, where criminals sell and buy both hacked accounts and tools to hack corporate and personal accounts.
Thus, identity protection is not only about knowing how such an incident may occur but also being on alert for signs of identity theft.
7 Common Signs of Identity Theft
As we said, identity protection services use advanced techniques to monitor your accounts for unusual and suspicious activities. Nevertheless, you still need to know how to implement a basic ID theft protection by looking for specific signs your identity is in use by someone else.
Your Bills Stop Arriving in the Mail
An old trick in use by criminals is to change your mailing address. This results in you starting to miss certain bills or checks that you were receiving regularly in the past. While not receiving bills may seem like nothing to complain about, they typically hold important, private information within their envelopes. By changing your mailing address, criminals then receive the private information included in your billing statements.
Unfortunately, identity protection services cannot track your regular mail. Therefore, it’s up to you to make sure there is no fraudulent activity involved if you start missing important mail from financial institutions, your landlord or organizations and merchants with whom you communicate on a regular basis by mail.
You Notice Unfamiliar Bank Transactions or Withdrawals
When you look at your bank statement, you should act as your own credit monitoring service. Even the smallest transaction that looks unfamiliar to you might be a sign of identity theft. Some criminal organizations withdraw only small amounts from a large number of bank accounts to remain unnoticed.
Identity protection services can track both your banking and investing accounts for suspicious activities and abnormal behavior.
Unfamiliar Credit Card Activity
Credit card theft is by far the most common crime related to identity theft. Therefore, you should scrutinize your credit card reports. Credit monitoring services by vendors such as LifeLock, offer tracking by one, two, or three credit bureaus. This greatly increases your chance to spot a fraudulent credit card activity before it is too late.
You should also make a habit of regularly checking if there are any bank cards in your name that you were unaware of. A person who has your personally identifiable information, such as your social security number, address, etc., can easily open a new bank card in your name.
If you have the smallest suspicion someone has stolen your personal details, you should immediately ask for a credit freeze. This is another service available from credit monitoring services.
You Are Denied Credit Despite Your Good Credit Rating
If a merchant or a financial institution denies you credit when you know that your credit rating is good, this is a very big warning sign of someone else taking credit in your name.
Your identity protection should include a broad set of measures against that happening. A malicious actor who possesses your personal information could obtain the maximum allowable amount of credit in your name in a short period.
Identity protection services can prevent this from happening by tracking all of your accounts. They’ll alert you about any activity related to credit and loan applications. Some of the best identity theft protection services even secure you against criminals taking payday loans in your name.
You Suddenly Cannot File Your Taxes
The stolen identity refund fraud occurs when someone else fills out a tax return in your name. They do this using your stolen personal information. As a result, you are unable to fill out your taxes as someone else had already done. They then redirect the refund you were supposed to receive to an account in their name.
Some services offer ID theft protection that tracks all public government databases. This can help you in defending yourself against tax refund fraud.
You Receive Unknown Healthcare Bills
Any bill for healthcare services you have not used or requested is a warning sign of identity theft. The same is true if you get your medical claim rejected because you have already reached your benefits limit. Someone you don’t know could be using your health insurance after having stolen your identity.
You should keep a good eye on your healthcare bills to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. A good move is to opt for identity protection services that monitor your health insurance accounts in addition to your financial accounts.
You Get Notifications for Unknown Activities
If you receive a message from an unknown merchant, online service, or an organization you do not know, there may be something wrong with your IT theft protection.
For instance, you may receive a message that you have accessed a specific account. When you think about it, however, you are sure you have not logged into it during the specified period. Be on alert for any notifications about your online activities that seem unfamiliar to you. Getting such notifications is a clear sign that someone has probably compromised one or more of your online accounts. The result is that they have access to your personal data.
You should also regularly check if your personally identifiable information has not been leaked. There are multiple ongoing data breaches just within the last few years. Free online services can check for accounts that have been involved in data breaches. ID theft tracking and credit monitoring services can detect if these accounts have been used in cases of identity theft.
You can never feel 100 percent safe about your personal information these days. You provide it all the time to multiple government-run and private databases when you sign up for a service, purchase a product, or file your taxes online.
Identity theft is one of the most damaging crimes committed online and is one of the fastest-growing as well. Luckily, you can easily spot the basic warning signs of identity theft in this guide. You just need to take the time to be aware of them. That being said, your best identity theft protection is to take advantage of a specialized identity protection service that does the work for you.
There are so many databases and transactions to track that you cannot cope with the task yourself. It is even more true for an economy where all your accounts are online. After all, your personal data resides on dozens of connected servers. Check out our site’s reviews of recommended identity theft protection services, and see which one could be right for you.