Identity thieves and hackers can access your personal information to invade your privacy, steal your money and ruin your credit. Identity theft is a serious issue, and it can happen again and again without your knowledge.
Have you been a victim?
Though there are no foolproof ways to avoid identity theft, there are some warning signs that your identity may have been comprised.
Unauthorized charges on your account
Unauthorized charges to your account are sure indicators that your card has been compromised. How often do you check your credit card or bank account statement? Identity thieves have been known to test an account with small purchases — $10 here and $5 there — to see if the card has been reported stolen or if the account owner has noticed. Once these charges go through without a problem, the next step is to charge bigger purchases, maxing out your credit card or draining your account before you do notice. Question any incorrect charges, big or small.
A collection agency is after you
And it’s for something you didn’t buy. It may not be a long-forgotten payment from your past — it could be that someone used your information to open an account they never intended to pay.
You are denied a loan
It may be a clue if you have recently been denied a loan, apartment or job due to your credit rating. Now, it’s possible that your credit may not be up to snuff because of your own financial history. However, if that’s not jiving with what you know of your own spending (and paying) habits, it could be that someone has dinged your credit one too many times and now it’s starting to affect how you can do business.
You get higher-than-expected interest rates
Again, if what you’re getting is not what you thought you should get, consider researching your credit rating and requesting a credit report. These days, it seems that everything we do is connected to our credit rating, and if there’s something fishy going on with yours it may manifest itself at the bank or when you’re trying to buy your next car.
You receive a thank you gift
While you may want to simply write it off as a nice little extra, that “thank you” gift could be an indicator that you paid for something you never ordered.
Extra bills show up in the mail
This is a sure sign, and one most people wouldn’t let go unnoticed. If you’re receiving bills from vendors you don’t do business with, or for items you (or someone else in your family) didn’t buy, it could be that someone else did it on your dime.
Your new debit card doesn’t show up
If you recently requested a new debit card or credit card and it doesn’t arrive in a timely fashion, it may not have gotten lost in the mail. Be sure to follow up with your bank to confirm that it was sent and that they cancel it and send you another one.
Your statement is missing
If it’s a credit card statement, this may not seem like a bad thing, right? But it’s bad if someone has overtaken your credit card account and is now receiving your statement and gladly maxing out your credit card. The same goes for your bank account statement: if it’s missing in action, it may mean that someone is getting it and your money. Consider opting for “paperless” billing to avoid this issue.
You receive a strange email
Now, this isn’t a phishing email. This is an email from a legitimate company following up on your request to open a new account or do business with them.
New accounts show up on your credit report
Check your credit report periodically for unrecognizable new accounts and other signs of identity theft. Identity thieves may try to open new accounts in your name if they have access to your Social Security number and other personal information.
Keep in Mind
You are entitled to one free credit report each year from all three major credit bureaus through www.annualcreditreport.com. Also consider signing up for a service such as LifeLock ID Theft Protection to be alerted when your personal information may be being used fraudulently.