Identity theft can really ruin your life, financially and otherwise. Criminals can use your personal information to borrow money and open credit cards in your name, get a fraudulent driver’s license with your name on it, and use your healthcare benefits, among other things. And if you’re not vigilant about protecting your identity, you might not notice anything is amiss until collection agencies start calling you or you’re arrested for crimes you didn’t commit.
You need to know how to tell if your identity has been stolen – before too much damage has been done. Here are the warning signs.
Strange Charges Are Appearing on Your Bank or Credit Card Statements
If charges that you didn’t authorize are appearing on your bank account or on your credit cards, that’s a sure sign that someone has stolen that information and is using your money to make purchases. You need to report the theft to your bank or credit card company immediately. You may also need to file a police report and report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Some of Your Mail Is Missing
Your mail can contain personal information that criminals can use to steal your identity, or pre-approved offers of credit that thieves can fill out to open credit cards in your name. Sign up for Informed Delivery so you always know what pieces of mail you should be getting, and you’ll be able to act fast if something doesn’t turn up.
Accounts You Didn’t Open Are Appearing on Your Credit Report
Strange accounts that you didn’t open yourself shouldn’t be appearing on your credit report – unless your identity has been stolen. The appearance of accounts you didn’t open on your credit report is a sign that your identity has been stolen and thieves are using your information to open up new accounts.
Your Credit Score Has Dropped for No Reason
It’s normal for your credit score to fluctuate from one week to the next, based on such factors as how much credit card debt you have, how recently your last hard inquiry was, and how long your credit history is. But if your score drops suddenly for no reason, that could be a sign that someone has been opening new accounts in your name or running up charges in your name and not paying them off.
You Get Denied for Credit When You Should Have Been Approved
A surprise denial of credit from a credit card provider or other lender could be a sign that something hinky is going on with your credit. Thieves may have already tanked your credit score by racking up lots of debt in your name and not paying it off.
Your Information Was Compromised in a Data Breach
If you receive notice that your personal data has been compromised in a data breach, that means you’re at an increased risk of identity theft if you haven’t already been a victim of it. Buy protection from identity theft, change your passwords, and monitor your credit report closely.
Your Social Security Statement Has Errors
Errors on your Social Security statement could mean that someone is using your Social Security number to open financial accounts, steal your medical benefits, or even work in your name. Make sure you have access to your Social Security account and check it regularly for errors. If you see signs of fraud, report it to the Social Security Administration.
Someone Has Filed Taxes in Your Name Without Your Knowledge or Permission
Identity thieves have started stealing people’s tax returns. They can do it by filing your taxes in your name before you have a chance to do it. If you find out that someone has already filed taxes under your Social Security number, you will have to work with the IRS to file your taxes on paper and hopefully get back the stolen refund money.
You Have an Arrest Warrant Connected to a Crime You Didn’t Commit
Criminals don’t just steal identities in order to get free money. They might also use your identity to commit additional crimes, for which you’ll take the blame if you’re stopped by police. An arrest warrant connected to a crime you didn’t commit may be the result of identity theft.
Identity theft is on the rise, and it’s not a matter of if your identity will be stolen, but when. You need to prepare yourself. Know the signs of identity theft, so you can fight back when the time comes.