How to Spot the Signs of Identity Theft
How do you know if your identity has been stolen?
As the pandemic continues to impact the world, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the heightened risk of identity theft. The hijacking of stimulus payments and hacks into everyday activities like online shopping are among the most prevalent forms of fraud and identity theft now reported.
So how can you tell if you’ve fallen victim?
- You see erroneous charges on your bank or credit card statements. Even small unknown charges should set off alarm bells. Set aside a few minutes each week to review your all of your bank and credit card charges in detail. You can also sign up for email or text notifications so you’ll receive instant notifications when charges occur. If you do notice suspicious activity, contact your financial institution immediately to discuss your next steps
- You don’t receive your mail. If your bills are missing, this may be a warning that an identity thief has changed your mailing address. By diverting your mail, criminals can piece together information to open new accounts in your name. They may also make purchases in your name. It’s important to keep track of your bills. You may also want to consider enrolling in paperless billing so you can manage your accounts online. If you decide to go this route, be sure to use strong passwords and change them frequently.
- Your medical claim is denied or medical service providers bill you for services you didn’t use. It’s important to keep a close eye on your medical bills and statements. If your health insurance claim is rejected or you receive a bill for a service you didn’t receive, call your healthcare provider and your insurance company immediately. If your medical identity has been stolen, it could impact your medical benefits eligibility or result in someone else’s medical history mixed into your health records. It’s crucial to resolve such discrepancies so your healthcare providers will have correct information about you when prescribing future treatments.
- You receive IRS notification about discrepancies on your tax return. You’ll know something is amiss if the IRS notifies you that more than one tax return has been filed in your name, or the wage amount on your Social Security statement doesn’t match the amount you filed on your tax return. Identity thieves may file taxes using your information to claim your tax refund. Your identity may have also been used to cash your federal stimulus check or apply for unemployment benefits. If you suspect you’ve been a victim, contact the Internal Revenue Service and your local police department right away.
- Debt collectors contact you regarding unpaid bills.If someone has stolen your Social Security number, the thief may have opened new accounts in your name. Check your credit report for unfamiliar accounts or charges. If you find accounts you didn’t open, or loans and credit cards you haven’t applied for, contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert or a credit freeze on your credit report:
- Equifax: 800-525-6285 or Equifax.com
- Experian: 888-397-3742 or Experian.com
- TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or TransUnion.com
The credit reporting agency you contact is required to alert the other two agencies. You should also contact the merchant or service provider where the fraudulent account was opened so you can close that account immediately.
While identity thieves are taking advantage of these challenging times, there are many ways to protect yourself. Be extra vigilant when asked to provide your personal information. Check your statements and credit reports often. Consider enrolling in an identity theft protection service to help detect fraud early and to protect against the damaging effects of identity theft.