How to Recognize Identity Theft
In 2013 alone, there were 11,571,900 Identity Theft cases reported, costing consumers over $21 billion. That number will continue to climb in 2014. So how does one go about protecting themselves by simply recognizing identity theft? By actively monitoring your credit profile, using services (free or paid) such as CreditKarma, Credit.com or CreditSesame, you can catch on before it’s too late.
But there are other ways, too. Let’s discuss ways to recognize identity theft.
When you take a look into your credit report using the sites mentioned above, you want to look at the inquiries on your report. Those services will usually give you alerts that provide descriptions of the activity taking place on your credit profile. Always look closely to make sure that you’re not missing possible issues that these alerts are warning you about.
2. Bank & Credit Card Statements
Most people choose to ignore these statements that they receive in the mail from their banks. Wrong move. These statements will show signs of possible misuse of your information. Identity Theft doesn’t just show up on your credit report(s), they also show up on your bank or credit card statements. Look at the statement closely to ensure that the charges made were authorized by yourself. If you see anything out of the ordinary, take notes and continue looking.
3. New Accounts
While looking at your credit profile be sure to look at your Accounts closely. Do you notice anything odd? Be sure that there’s no new accounts that you didn’t sign up for. This is one of the most obvious things to appear. Most Identity Thieves open up accounts under the victims name, giving them an easy way to purchase items without payment. By not monitoring your credit profile you are basically giving free access to identity thieves, allowing them to abuse your credit quickly and easily.
4. Loan/Credit Approval Letters
These may appear without any need to monitor your credit profile. Many consumers will notice approval letters appearing in their mailbox, while others may get emails delivered to them. This is another surefire sign that your identity has been stolen. Keep an eye out for mail and emails (but be careful about spam CLAIMING new accounts, as these are identity thieves trying to scare you into clicking the link!) that states you have been approved for a new credit card, loan or anything similar.
Similar to above, bills may start arriving to your home or email box that you have no idea about. This is another sign to take action against. When identity thieves steal your identity, the first thing they usually do is create new accounts and start making charges/purchases right away. If you get any bills be sure to look at them closely. Make calls to the creditor to find out more information, including what you can do about it.
Something else you need to watch out for is when your known credit card bills stop arriving at your address(es). This means that the thief has hacked into your account and changed the billing address so that you cannot figure out that your identity has been stolen before they get away with as much as possible. If you notice that your bills have stopped being sent, be sure to make calls immediately to ensure that there’s no damage being done to your credit or account(s).
6. You Card(s) Has Disappeared
Has your card disappeared or vanished into thin air? It’s time to make that call. Call your credit card company immediately, before any real damage might occur. Even if it was your own fault it is still important that you call to let the company know, as soon as possible. This way they can cancel the card and send you a new one without any unauthorized charges making their way onto your old card. Your card company may have $0 liability, but it’s worth reporting the card before having to find out if you’re going to owe any money.
7. Getting Denied for Credit/Loan
You might think you have perfect credit, but there could come a time when you suddenly get denied for the loan you were counting on. This could be a big sign that your identity has been stolen. Your credit score could take a major hit without your knowledge, quicker than you might imagine. All it takes is a few days for a dozen new accounts to suddenly appear on your profile. This is why we highly suggest that you constantly monitor your credit profile.
Other Ways to Spot Identity Theft
There are also many other ways to spot identity theft. Health Insurance coverage denial could be a sign of identity theft, due to medical identity theft. Getting calls from your bank or other financial institutions could also be a sign. Be prepared to answer calls from any Financial Institution to at least know if there’s a problem.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
While there’s no one way, or a perfect solution, there are plenty of ideas to help protect yourself from identity theft. Below are some ways to protect yourself.
- Monitor your credit, constantly. Be aware of anything and everything going on with your credit profile.
- Keep your Social Security card/number safe. This is one of the easiest ways that thieves steal your identity.
- Better/safer Passwords. Making sure that your passwords are tough to crack and not obvious is very important.
- Use a shredder. Shred any and all financial documents that you receive in the mail. Trash is a known goldmine for identity thieves.
- Don’t fall for Phishing attempts. Be sure you don’t start clicking on any link sent to you, regardless of whom it’s from. Look at the link carefully and be sure that it makes sense and isn’t an obvious phishing attempt.
Again, monitor everything. Look above and be sure to keep all of this in mind to ensure your financial safety. Don’t become another victim of identity theft. It can happen to anyone, any day of the week, any minute of the day. No one is safe, but keeping a close eye on your credit profile is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe.