How Can You Check If Your Identity Has Been Stolen – Do you suspect you are a victim of identity theft? You are not alone. The number of identity theft cases, which have been on the rise for decades, has increased dramatically in the past few years.
But these are only cases. A recent survey found that 47% of Americans have been a victim of financial identity theft in the past two years. [*]
How Can You Check If Your Identity Has Been Stolen
1. Strange Things in Your Financial Account Most thieves have one goal: turn your personal information into money as quickly as possible.
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That’s why you should have a copy of your latest credit report. You should also develop the habit of reviewing your financial statements every month.
It is important to learn to recognize the warning signs of identity theft. A recent survey found that less than half of consumers report being a victim of identity theft at financial institutions.
You can get a free annual credit report from credit reporting agencies, such as: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).
When you check your credit history, look for difficult issues you didn’t recognize or new accounts you didn’t open.
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Be on the lookout for signs of fraud, no matter how small, on your credit cards and bank accounts. Criminals often test stolen cards with a few dollars before making larger purchases.
What does that mean to you? If you have unusual activity on your credit report, thieves can steal your Social Security Number (SSN) or other personal information that they can use to apply for new credit cards or loans. mortgage in your name.
A suspicious purchase showing up on your bank or credit card activity means your card number has been stolen, and the thief made an unauthorized purchase.
If you notice any of these red flags, you should freeze your credit immediately and report the fraud to your financial institution.
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You may need to delete fraudulent accounts as this is a necessary step for effective damage control.
2. Health Insurance Benefits If you refuse health insurance or refuse government benefits such as unemployment, it shows that you are stealing from someone.
Benefit fraud is one of the most common forms of identity theft in the midst of the pandemic, as fraudsters took advantage of people who needed financial assistance from the US government.
Fraudsters may have stolen your information in a phishing attack, or found it on the Dark Web after a data breach.
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For example, the T-Mobile breach in 2021 exposed the names, birthdays, and Social Security numbers of more than 40 million people. [*]
Your health insurance information can be stolen in cases of medical identity theft, where someone has used your health benefits to pay for their own medical care.
And then there’s another government benefit that most of us don’t categorize but is just as important: your tax refund. This type of fraud is so common that it deserves its own category.
3. Incorrect (or missing) tax returns You submit a tax return, only to receive this message: someone else filed a return on your behalf.
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Or equivalently, the IRS accepts your accurate return, but then sends you a letter saying there are discrepancies and your taxes need to be checked.
Taxes are among the most common targets for personal fraud. Unfortunately, the IRS is limited in its ability to help you in tax fraud cases.
What does that mean to you?
For example, an Illinois man pleaded guilty to identity theft in May 2022. He collected $222,000 in tax refunds filed on behalf of innocent victims.
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If your tax return is flagged as inconsistent, it may be because you used personal information in a job application. Worse, the IRS may file your return for unreported income.
4. You’re locked out of online accounts Imagine you’re trying to access an important online account, but you can’t. When you try to reset your password, it doesn’t even recognize your email. Blocked from your account.
The average American has 150 online accounts. Even the best Internet security tools can’t prevent data breaches—the best methods hackers use to steal passwords.
Last year set new records for the number of security breaches that exposed personally identifiable information (PII), including:
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What does that mean to you? If you can’t log into your account (or reset your password), a fraudster has taken control of it.
The biggest target is financial institutions. A hacker with access to your bank account, credit account, or cryptocurrency wallet can wipe the account down to zero.
You may not maintain a Macy’s online account that you have not used in five years. But if it’s compromised, criminals can buy products with stored credit card information.
5. Mail theft of missing physical mail is one of the most damaging scams. Someone has compromised your privacy by tapping into your mailbox.
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Even if you check your mailbox regularly and use a shredder to get rid of sensitive documents and financial information, you are not completely safe.
A Florida postal worker pleaded guilty to opening and stealing nearly 100 pieces of mail in June 2022.
What does that mean to you? Email is a target for fraudsters because it contains valuable information that can be stolen for identity theft. This information may include your name, phone number, address and account number.
Bank statements, medical records, tax documents, and even pre-approved junk mail can be used for identity theft.
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6. Missing or missing physical documents You get ready to go to work in the morning and suddenly realize that your wallet is missing.
If you lose any sensitive physical documents (especially your driver’s license) or your entire wallet, you risk identity theft.
What does that mean to you? A thief who gets hold of a physical card or credit card or debit card can commit identity theft faster than someone on the dark web.
A personal identification document or physical credit card contains all the information needed to defraud someone.
What To Do When Your Identity Is Stolen
7. Your Information Found on the Dark Web You can scan the Dark Web for free to make sure your personal information is not exposed.
What if someone stole your ID? Here’s what you should do if your identity is stolen:
1. Change your password immediately. If you’ve experienced fraud, it’s always a good idea to change your password and protect your online accounts, especially for sensitive accounts that contain financial information.
2. Set up two-factor authentication (2FA). Of the 1.2 million hacked accounts Microsoft tracked, 99.9% did not use 2FA. Installing the Authenticator app is simple and helps protect against account theft.
What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
3. Use a secure password manager. Remember all your passwords and don’t use the same password for multiple online accounts.
4. Close or freeze your credit immediately. You should contact one of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and request a credit freeze. You must also file a fraud report on your credit report, which requires lenders to verify your identity before offering you a loan. Meanwhile, a credit freeze completely shuts down your report.
5. Notify your financial institutions. Call the fraud department of the affected company, such as your bank or credit card company, and explain that you are a victim of identity theft.
6. Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can file an official identity theft report with the FTC at identitytheft.gov.
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7. File a police report. Bring the FTC report with you to report to local law enforcement.
8. Report identity theft to the IRS. If you are a victim of tax fraud, file an Identity Theft Affidavit (form 14039), or call 800-908-4490.
9. Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you believe your Social Security number has been compromised, contact the fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or file a report at https://oig.ssa.gov/
10. Keep less in your wallet or purse. The less information you carry with you, the less information a thief can steal. It’s a good idea to keep one credit card and your driver’s license in your wallet. Always leave your Social Security card and debit card at home.
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11. Use a VPN and antivirus software. A VPN can help protect you on public Wi-Fi networks. Antivirus software can detect and remove malware before it infects your device and data.
12. Protect against identity theft. Credit monitoring services alone are not enough. To ensure true peace of mind, you need a comprehensive identity theft protection service. Just because you’re careful with your personal information doesn’t mean you’re immune to identity theft. All it takes is one data breach at your bank or other institution you work with, and your data is compromised. In addition, identity theft is covert by nature. Identity thieves can go undetected for months.
When your identity is stolen, standard procedure is to close all accounts and connections
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