Identity theft is a major problem across the United States. If your identity is stolen, the thieves can steal your assets. They can also ruin your credit score.
There are some ways you can try to protect yourself from identity thieves, such as using strong online passwords. However, sometimes identity theft can happen anyway.
When it does, recognizing it quickly is essential. That way, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and start to implement a recovery plan.
Here are 11 signs that your identity may have been stolen.
- Your Credit Report is Not Accurate
It is important to stay informed about your credit store. Do so by checking your credit report on a regular basis.
TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian each allow free credit report checks once per year. Check a different one every four months so you can spot credit report errors quickly.
If you notice such errors, report them immediately to the bureaus.
- Your Credit Card is Used Without Your Authorization
It is common for credit card companies to offer fraud protection. However, there is often a time limit on how long you can take to report fraudulent charges.
The credit card company may call you to report certain large or otherwise suspicious charges, but some may not get flagged as suspicious. Check your credit card statements carefully on your own each month to avoid missing the reporting deadline for fraudulent charges.
Here are some things you can do if you find any:
- Report the Fraudulent Charge to the Credit Card Company
- Request a New Card with a New Number
- Change Any Online Passwords or PINs Associated with Your Account
- Funds Are Missing from Your Bank Account
Identity thieves often target bank accounts in a similar way to how they target credit card accounts. If they obtain your bank account information, they may use it to withdraw insignificant amounts at first.
Insignificant amounts are more likely to go unnoticed. That is why you should check your bank statements regularly for even the smallest discrepancies.
If you do not notice such withdrawals, they may start withdrawing higher amounts until the account is drained of funds or they are caught. Notify your bank at the first sign of any suspicious charges.
- Your Important Mail or Emails Are Missing
When identity thieves obtain insignificant amounts of information, they can use it to take over your accounts quite quickly.
An address or email address and a name or online password can provide them with exactly what they need to steal your identity. When they get that information, they can use it to reroute your mail or email to them.
Regular recurring bills, bank statements, and credit card statements are the most common targets for such rerouting. Report any such missing statements right away.
- You Receive Another Person’s Mail
Missing mail is not the only possible sign of identity theft relating to postal service. You may receive extra mail instead.
In some cases, such mail is sent due to legitimate errors. For example, a person could easily address a holiday card to your neighbor and put your street number on it.
However, if the mail you receive has a completely unfamiliar name and comes in the form of a bill, tax document, or other official looking document, you need to investigate. You also need to investigate if you receive more than one piece of mail addressed to the same stranger.
- You Receive Extra Credit Card Statements
It is quite common for identity thieves to use stolen identities for the purposes of opening brand-new credit card accounts. Often, they run up large credit card balances with no intention of paying.
You may have been victimized in such a way if you start receiving credit card statements for accounts for which you never applied. If you do, call the company listed on the statements as quickly as possible to settle the matter.
- Collection Agencies Start Calling You
Identity thieves who open credit cards in your name may not have the statements sent to your address. You may never know there is a problem until months later.
When the thieves do not pay the bills, collection agencies may take over. Since the fraudulent lines of credit are in your name, the collection agencies may track you down.
Then you may start receiving calls and letters. If that happens, explain that you have been an identity theft victim and request detailed information about the charges. Also, contact the three major credit bureaus to check your credit reports for other fraudulent charges.
- Unusual Bills Show Up at Your Home
It is likely identity thieves who get your information may use that information to access your credit or bank account. Then they may withdraw substantial amounts to cover major expenses.
Those expenses may include necessities or expensive extras for their own amusement. If you receive such bills, you need to speak to the proper authorities right away.
Examples may include bills relating to:
- Medical Expenses
- Car Purchases
- Purchases of Other “Big Ticket” Items (boats, artwork, collectibles, etc.)
- You Have a Tax Filing Problem
Identity thieves often commit tax fraud. If you are the target of such fraud, there are a few ways to tell.
For instance, you may receive an unexpected and inexplicable refund. You may also have trouble filing your taxes online because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may indicate you have already filed.
As soon as you suspect tax fraud, contact the IRS to resolve it.
- Your Cell Phone Stops Working
Bank accounts and credit cards are not the only targets of identity thieves. They can also disrupt other services you have, such as your cell phone service.
In fact, identity thieves commonly use information to obtain new cell phones connected to victim accounts. As the victim of such a scam, you may suddenly find yourself paying for a phone you did not purchase or unable to use the phone you did purchase. Call your phone provider immediately to report such issues.
- Your Employer Notices Your Social Security Number is Compromised
Your Social Security number (SSN) is a vital piece of personal identification information. When thieves get it, they can pretend to be you in several ways.
One of the most common forms of Social Security fraud occurs when thieves file false unemployment claims under the names of their victims. Employers often notice such activity quickly.
If your employer informs you of misuse of your Social Security number, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) right away.