Maybe you’ve temporarily lost your social security card, or perhaps you’ve noticed someone sifting through your recycling bills on occasion. Whatever your reason, suspecting identity theft can be a massive problem for the victim and shouldn’t be ignored. The first step in recovering from a stolen identity is determining whether you’ve had your information compromised. To help determine whether your identity has been taken, it’s essential to follow the following steps.
Monitor your bills carefully
Keep track of your monthly bills and when the payments are due. This can be a simple spreadsheet with your monthly bills, their balance, when they’re due, and how much you’re required to pay. Every time you receive the invoice in the mail, input the information on your spreadsheet. Pay attention to any bills that mysteriously disappear or stop arriving at the house. There’s a good chance that any bill that mysteriously stops appearing has had the address changed (or the account settings changed to online statements). Follow up with the company to confirm the address as soon as you notice the change.
Review Your Bank Account Statements
Your bank account can become a target for identity theft, especially if it has online credit card functionality (also known as Visa Debit). Likewise, criminals will use ATM adapters to steal your card information (including the pin) to compromise the accounts. Monitor your monthly statements for any new or unexplained debit transactions. If you notice any transactions you didn’t make, contact your bank immediately to freeze the accounts. Always keep your pin private and never let others use your card. Any unauthorized transactions could be a sign of identity theft, so proceed with caution if you’ve noticed any charges you can’t explain.
Carefully Track Your History
Identity theft can occur in a few ways, from financial fraud to stealing your personal information. When trying to confirm identity theft, it’s always a good idea to perform a background check. These checks will include your personal information, credit report, criminal history, and any educational or employment on file. Look through your file and confirm that any information (including your SSN, address, and phone number). You’ll also want to review your financial accounts carefully for any unauthorized accounts. These accounts will be opened around the same time, often with high balances.
Evaluate any account on file for validity. You’ll want to confirm that your accounts are in good standing, with regular payments on file. Any creditor who shows defaulted payments, high balances, or collection activity negatively influences your credit score. These accounts should be investigated quickly, notifying all creditors of fraudulent activity as soon as it’s discovered. Finally, someone experiencing identity theft is going to have several hard checks on their file. Hard checks are potential creditors pulling your credit history. If a creditor finds a qualified candidate, they’ll likely approve the credit request.
Review Your Monthly Subscription Services
Not all cases of identity theft are financially draining. Occasionally, someone may use compromised accounts (like Netflix or Hulu) without your knowledge. It’s always a good idea to verify the account sign-in history. Change your passwords regularly and log off all users at least once a month. While it may be a pain to sign into your account, you’ll keep unauthorized users from leeching your paid services.
Evaluate Your Monthly Bills
A thief wants to collect as much benefit from your information as quickly as possible. This may include new accounts or services sent to your address (in hopes you won’t notice). Pay attention to any new bills that arrive in the mail. If you see any new accounts you haven’t created, contact the lender or company immediately. Ask the creditor to confirm the location of services and any identifying information you can use to report the individual to the police. Ask to talk to a supervisor about reporting the fraud. You are not responsible for paying accounts you didn’t create. Make sure you tell the customer service representative that you did not open the account and won’t be paying the balance.
Types of Identity Theft to Consider
There are many different types of identity theft, with numbers continuing to climb every day. Here are the most common types of identity theft:
Data Breach: When a company becomes hacked, the account information becomes compromised. This means the names, addresses, and credit card details are exposed. Thieves will often take this information and sell it on the dark web.
Medical Identity Theft: Criminals use someone’s name and health insurance information to access services, specialists, medications, and claims.
Unemployment insurance: This type of identity theft has someone using your personal information to collect unemployment insurance benefits under your name. They’ll receive a monthly amount under your name, often without your knowledge.
Online shopping: This type of theft is fast and dangerous. It involves stealing your credit card information or bank account details and using them. Thieves will create carts full of online products and then use your credit card details to complete the transactions. The items may be shipped to their house, or they may go to an unsuspecting victim’s house (a friend or family member, for example).