The phone rings, and a voice on the other end says you owe $25,000.
Impossible. You have impeccable credit. Or, so you thought.
It turns out that someone’s been using your identity and has now run up mountains of debt. Unfortunately, this is all too common these days.
According to IdentityTheft.info, identity theft strikes 15 million people per year.
Those 15 million victims suffer from $50B in damages. As e-commerce and online banking turn internet finance into the norm, these numbers could increase even further.
Identity theft does plenty of financial damage, but it does psychological damage, as well. In some cases, people have even been arrested because of activity committed by the thief that was in no way their fault. Identity theft is a painful event — filled with stress — and it’s not easily corrected or prevented.
But what happens if you don’t know that your identity’s been stolen? Your financial life could be ruined. There are services you can pay to protect your identity, and they’ll be responsible if anything should happen. There are also credit monitoring services and identity theft insurance.
But, if you’re not using those companies, you’ll need to keep your own watch on your name and funds.
Recognize these warning signs and act quickly to start damage control and reclaim your life.
7 Signs of Identity Theft
1. Inaccurate bank statements
Keep an eye on your bank statements and be on the lookout for inaccurate withdrawals and payments. Know your bank’s policy for entry errors, as well as for identity theft. Discuss any problems with your bank’s manager immediately.
2. Mistakes on your credit report
If you’re not doing your recommended yearly check of your credit report, you could be missing signs of illegal activity. Finding issues, such as loans you didn’t apply for, or defaults on payments, let you know that there may be fraudulent activity happening, and that you need to take action.
3. Calls from creditors for things you never bought
If you haven’t bought from or used the company the creditor is calling you about, someone’s probably been using your name and/or social security number. It’s also possible that the company entered the data incorrectly, but you must follow up to find out.
4. Unusual calls from your bank
If your bank is calling you regarding irregular activity, let them know that there’s a problem. If you get an email asking for details, never respond by sending the information online. Go to your bank and speak with them personally.
5. Problems with medical insurance
If your coverage is denied for a procedure that’s already been performed and it hasn’t — not on you, at least — someone else could be using your medical insurance. Take action with your insurance company immediately.
6. An empty mail box
If you normally get loads of mail, then you suddenly stop receiving any statements, you may have been ripped off. If someone has hacked your online banking accounts and changed your address, you won’t get your statements — so check with your lender and make sure your information is still correct.
7. Notification of loan approvals
You may get approved for a loan you didn’t apply for. If this happens, immediately contact the lender and deny the loan.
Now, suppose you have one or all of the above happen to you. What should you do?
What to Do if You Suspect Identity Theft
1. Place a fraud alert. Call one of the three major credit reporting agencies and let them know there’s fraudulent activity happening with your account.
2. Ask them to put your file on fraud alert.
3. Make sure they’ll contact the other two credit reporting agencies.
4. Mark your calendar to renew the fraud alert within 90 days, if necessary.
5. Update your files and document the date.
Identity theft causes billions of dollars in damage each year. Make sure your share isn’t part of that total.
Have you been a victim of identity theft? Do you have any tips to prevent it?