How to Spot the Signs of Identity TheftJanuary 22, 2018
Since last year’s Equifax data breach, Americans have become more aware of identity theft, and that’s a good thing since the chances of becoming a victim are now almost 1 in 20. But how do you know if your identity has been stolen? Here are some warning signs and what to do if you spot them.
Financial fraud is the most common kind of identity theft, so always check credit card and other financial statements for unauthorized charges, withdrawals, or other transactions. Warning signs of financial fraud include:
- Collection notices about debts that aren’t yours
- Vendors or merchants suddenly refusing your checks
- Getting unexpectedly denied on a credit application
In a recent blog, we also described tax-related identity fraud and what to watch for there.
Medical identity fraud is also on the rise, so watch for unauthorized medical charges or notices that you’ve exceeded your benefit limit. Also, when at the doctor or using a patient portal, be alert for any sign of wrong information in your medical records, as that can be a sign someone else got treatment using your name. Likewise, a notice that you’ve maxed out other government or insurance benefits is a red flag.
Other warning signs can include delayed or absent mail. Thieves will sometimes redirect mail or email from your accounts to prevent you from seeing unauthorized activity. In some cases, criminals will use stolen identities to impersonate the victim, typically to hide a criminal record or illegal status. They may apply for driver licenses, jobs, or housing with the fake identity, or they might even use it to mask criminal activity.
In these cases, they’ll likely give fake contact information to avoid being discovered. You might spot some of these problems by monitoring your credit report or if your Social Security account shows earnings from a job that you never had, but others would only show up if you have identity protection plan that includes monitoring of public records and other sources.
Should you come across one or more of these red flags, don’t panic! Here’s what you can do:
- Contact the business or government agency involved and try to get to the bottom of what’s happening. People and businesses do make mistakes, and the problem could be as simple as a clerical error.
- If there is identity fraud and you have identity protection, notify your provider right away so a recovery advocate can get started recovering your identity.
- If you don’t have identity protection, put a freeze on your credit report; notify any businesses, healthcare providers, or government agencies where your identity might have been used; find out their processes for resolving identity fraud (if they have any); and dial up your patience because you may be spend a lot time on the phone or in correspondence to get your identity straightened out.
- Consider getting identity protection services because you’ll never want to go through this process again.