How Do You Know If Your Identity Has Been Stolen – Do you suspect you have been a victim of identity theft? you are not alone The number of reported cases of identity theft, which has been on the rise for decades, has increased dramatically in the past few years.
But these are the only reported cases. A recent survey shows that 47% of Americans have been a victim of financial identity theft in the past two years.[*]
How Do You Know If Your Identity Has Been Stolen
1. Unidentified Activity on Financial Reports Most identity thieves have one goal: turn personal information into quick cash.
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That’s why you should always have a copy of your credit report. You should also develop the habit of checking 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 have been notified by a financial institution that they have been a victim of identity theft.
You can get a free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) at annualcreditreport.com.
When checking your credit history, be sure to look for any hard inquiries you don’t recognize or new accounts you haven’t opened.
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For credit cards and bank statements, check for any signs of fraudulent activity, no matter how small. Criminals often test stolen cards with a few dollars before trying to buy something bigger.
What does this mean to you? If you have unusual activity on your credit file, it means thieves have stolen your Social Security Number (SSN) or other types of personal information that you can use to apply for a new credit card, loan or even. A mortgage in your name.
Suspicious purchases reported on your bank or credit card may mean your card number has been stolen and thieves are making unauthorized purchases.
If you see one of these red flags, you should immediately freeze your credit and report the fraud to the financial institution.
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You may need to cancel the fraudulent account, as this is a necessary step for effective loss control.
2. Maximize Health Insurance Benefits If you are denied health insurance or denied benefits from government agencies such as unemployment, this is a sign that someone has stolen your identity.
Benefit fraud is the most abused form of identity theft during the pandemic, as fraudsters take advantage of people who need financial assistance from the US government.
Scammers 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, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of 40 million people.[*]
Your health insurance data can be stolen in a case of medical identity theft, where someone uses your health benefits to pay for their own medical care.
And there’s another government benefit that many don’t categorize as such, but it’s just as important: your tax refund. This type of fraud is so common that it deserves its own category.
3. Wrong (or lost) tax return You send your tax return, only to receive an alarming message: someone else has filed a return in your name.
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Or equally, the IRS receives a correct return, but then sends a letter saying there is a discrepancy and that the tax must be audited.
Taxes are the most common target for identity fraud. Unfortunately, the IRS is limited in its ability to help with tax fraud.
What does this mean to you? An existing return may indicate that an identity thief has claimed a tax refund in your name.
For example, in May, 2022, an Illinois man pleaded guilty to identity theft. He had collected $222,000 in false tax returns filed in the names of innocent victims.
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If your tax return is marked as different, it may be because someone used your personal data in a job application. Even worse, the IRS can mark your return for unreported income.
4. You’ve Locked Your Online Account Imagine you’re trying to access an important online account, but you can’t. It doesn’t even recognize your email when you try to reset your password. You have been locked out of your account.
The average American has 150 online accounts. Even the best Internet security tools cannot prevent data breaches – hackers use them to steal passwords.
Last year set a new record for the number of security breaches where personally identifiable information (PII) was leaked, such as:
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What does this mean to you? If you can’t log into your account (or reset your password), it means a scammer has taken control of your account.
Financial institutions are the biggest targets. A thief with access to a bank account, credit account or cryptocurrency wallet can withdraw money until the account is empty.
You can not worry about Macy’s online account if you have not used it in five years. But if hacked, criminals can buy products with stored credit card information.
5. Theft of lost Physical Mail is one of the most dangerous scams. Someone is invading your privacy by attacking 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 safe.
A Florida postal worker pleaded guilty in June 2022 to opening and stealing nearly 100 pieces of mail.
What does this mean to you? Mail is a target for fraudsters because it contains sensitive information that can be stolen for identity theft. This information may include your name, phone number, address and account number.
Bank statements, medical documents, tax documents, and even approved junk mail can be used for identity theft.
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6. Losing ID or physical documents You are getting ready to leave for work in the morning and suddenly realize that your wallet is missing.
If you lose any type of sensitive physical document (especially your driver’s license) or your entire wallet, you are at high risk of identity theft.
What does this mean to you? Thieves who can find a physical ID or credit or debit card can steal your identity faster than you can on the dark web.
A personal ID document or physical credit card contains all the information needed to commit identity fraud.
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7. Your Information Found on the Dark Web You can scan the dark web for free to ensure that your personal information is not exposed.
What to do if someone steals your identity Here’s what to do if your identity is stolen:
1. Change your password immediately. If you’ve been scammed, it’s a good idea to change your password and secure your online accounts, especially for sensitive accounts that contain financial information.
2. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA). Of the 1.2 million hacked accounts tracked by Microsoft, 99.9% did not use 2FA. The Authenticator app is easy to install and helps protect against account takeovers.
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3. Use a secure password manager. Don’t try to remember all your passwords and don’t recycle the same password across multiple online accounts.
4. Lock or freeze your credit immediately. You should contact one of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and initiate a credit freeze. You must also put a fraud alert on your credit file, which requires lenders to verify your identity before extending credit. Meanwhile, a credit freeze locks your report completely.
5. Notify your financial institution. Call the fraud department at the affected company, such as your bank or credit card company, and explain that you are a victim of identity theft.
6. Report fraud 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 complaint. Bring the FTC report with you to file a report with local law enforcement.
8. Report identity theft to the IRS. If you are a victim of tax-related fraud, complete 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, call the fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or submit a report online at https://oig.ssa.gov/.
10. Carry less in your wallet or purse. The less you carry with you, the less information thieves can steal. It is a good idea to keep only one credit card and SIM card in your wallet. Always keep 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. Consider identity theft protection. Credit monitoring services alone are not enough. You need comprehensive identity theft protection services to ensure peace of mind. Just because you’re more careful with your personal data doesn’t mean you’re safe from identity theft. All it takes is a data breach at a bank or other organization you do business with and your data is still compromised. In addition, identity theft is theft by its very nature. Identity thieves can take months to figure out until you’ve been hacked.
Standard procedure when your identity is stolen is to lock all accounts and log-ins and
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