Talented identity thieves work subtly and quickly enough to get at your personal information before you even notice that anything’s wrong.
So, how do you know if your identity has been stolen? We’ll go over how to check to see if you’ve been a victim then discuss ways to improve your identity theft protection.
3 signs your identity has been stolen
How do I know if my identity’s been stolen? What are the signs that you’ve been a victim of ID theft?
Unfortunately, many people don’t know precisely what to watch out for, so here are some major signs that you’ve been a victim of ID theft.
1. You notice suspicious activity in your bank account
Most identity thieves are after your hard-earned money. And they’re pretty clever about finding the personal information they need to get it. Your banking info can be stolen by card readers that thieves install at the pay stations of gas pumps or cooperating vendors. These cards have a chip in them that scans and saves your credit card number, PIN, and other information.
Once they have that, thieves can make online and in-store purchases on your dime. They may even be able to withdraw cash from a bank with a lax ID policy.
Identity thieves who do a little bit more hacking can also get into your online banking portal and drain your bank account in a single transfer.
2. Unfamiliar devices have accessed your accounts
These days, Google and other browsers save your usernames, passwords, and even credit card information for ease of use. This means you don’t have to remember a stack of site-specific, unrepeated passwords.
But it also means devices that can figure out how to pretend to be you can utilize that information. They can get this information if you’re using unprotected public Wi-Fi. Identity thieves who have connected this way can directly make purchases or money transfers, and it all seems like it’s simply you doing it from another device.
Review your account login history periodically, or any time you suspect something strange has happened. Your account manager page will show you where recent login attempts have come from. If one of them is a device you don’t recognize, you may have been the victim of identity theft.
3. Your tax return seems off
Doing your taxes is never fun. All the more so if you notice that things just aren’t adding up.
Tax forms aggregate information about your income, assets, charity work, gifts given and received, and more. Identity thieves who can access your tax returns (by stealing your Social Security number and tax identification number) can submit misinformation-laden tax forms in your name with awful results.
They can file your taxes and intercept your tax refund—or have it directly deposited into their own account. They could even have it deposited into your account and, if they’ve gained access to your banking portal, transfer it to their own account before you even know it was there.
What to do if you think your identity has been stolen
If you think your identity has been stolen, act quickly. But stay calm: Identity theft is common, and most organizations have protocols to address it.
Check your credit report. Sometimes, you’ll see a smoking gun theft there. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com, or call them at 1-877-322-8228. Go over the report carefully; make sure there’s nothing suspicious going on and that you recognize all loans and lines of credit being taken out.
If you collect Social Security, look at your Social Security Statement.
According to the FTC, if your Social Security number has fallen into the wrong hands, you should:
- Call companies and vendors where you know fraud has occurred
- Place a fraud alert and generate your credit report
- Report identity theft to the FTC
- File a police report (optional)
- Close any new accounts opened in your name
- Ask vendors to remove charges that the identity thief made
- Correct your credit report by writing a letter to each of the three bureaus
- Freeze your credit report (optional)
And, as mentioned, monitor your banking and tax information carefully. Change usernames and passwords frequently and make them harder and harder to guess.
How to protect yourself from identity theft
Identity theft puts your financial and personal life at risk.
Luckily, there are proactive steps you can take to find out if your identity has been stolen: Monitor your bank and credit information for unusual activity; if you see any, check on your social security number to make sure no one’s been using it to access your highly sensitive information. And take advantage of IDShield’s membership benefits.
IDShield is here to help. We offer comprehensive protection from identity theft.
Frequently asked questions
How can I check if someone is using my identity?
Check your credit report and monitor your bank account carefully. Identity thieves are usually after your financial information.
What are the first signs of identity theft?
Often, people don’t know their identity has been stolen until it’s too late: Large charges and loan applications begin showing up. You may start getting collection calls, bills for things you don’t remember purchasing; your expected mail or email may no longer come through.
How do I check to see if someone is using my Social Security number?
You usually won’t know someone is using your Social Security number until they’ve already used it. In which case, you can contact the FTC and have a freeze put on access to your Social Security number and credit report.
What happens when someone steals and uses your identity?
Thieves often use your stolen identity to drain your bank accounts, apply for credit in your name, or sign up for health insurance and other government programs under your name.
Can you catch someone who steals your identity?
It’s difficult to catch someone who steals your identity. That’s up to federal and local law enforcement, and sometimes, there’s just nothing they can do to catch a cybercriminal.