How to check if someone is using my identity
Identity theft is a fraudulent activity that involves hackers exploiting the victim’s credit card details, Social Security number, bank account, or other personal or financial information to profit financially or in other ways impersonate the victim. Identity theft is a growing concern because of its damaging and long-lasting consequences, as well as the difficulty of detecting it. So, here’s a list of the most common ways to determine if someone is using your identity without your knowledge.
Criminals use stolen identities to carry out financial crimes. Identity thieves can sometimes try to take out loans or open a new bank account under your name. So, you should occasionally check your credit history for suspicious activity you didn’t participate in. An inexplicable drop in your credit score may also alert you about identity theft.
Fishy transactions and bank statements
Similarly, your bank account statements may also reveal identity fraud. Sometimes, criminals make small unauthorized transactions to check if the account is active and then proceed with larger sums of money, shamelessly emptying your account. If you see unrecognized purchases, react immediately. Moreover, watch out for calls and emails from debt collectors. If scammers take out loans in your name, debt agencies will probably reach out to you.
Unknown or missed bills
Keeping track of all of your bills is a good way to defend yourself against identity theft. If you receive bills for something you didn’t purchase – investigate. Do the same if you suddenly stop receiving regular checks for something you usually pay for weekly or monthly.
Tax refund issues
If the Revenue Service rejects your tax return request or you receive unexpected letters from them, fraudsters might have stolen your identity. Sometimes, criminals can use your ID to commit identity theft and steal your tax return funds. So, check your revenue service account for suspicious activity.
Unauthorized changes in online accounts
Changes in your online accounts that you didn’t make may also alert you about identity theft. Run regular email, social media accounts, and online baking checkups for unauthorized activities to catch identity thieves before they cause reputational or financial damage.
Missing physical mail
Missing credit card statements, payslips, or tax documents from your letterbox can be alarming because these documents contain enough information about your identity to carry out fraud. They often use a change-of-address scam to redirect your mail to their address, allowing them to control your documentation.
Identity theft protection service alerts
No matter how hard you try to gatekeep your identity, it is nearly impossible to check all your channels for suspicious criminal activity. Identity theft protection service constantly checks databases, websites, and the dark web for your private information. It notifies you about leaks, reducing the risk of someone using your identity for malicious purposes.
Moreover, identity theft protection services often provide identity theft insurance that will cover any out-of-pocket expenses related to the identity theft reclamation.
What to do if you spot the signs of identity theft
If you suspect identity theft, here’s what you can do:
- Contact your bank. As soon as you start suspecting something fishy, contact your bank. They have the necessary tools to monitor suspicious activity in your account and can freeze your bank or credit card accounts if they notice something.
- Lock your credit file. Contact major credit reporting agencies to lock your credit. This way, you will prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts or taking loans under your name.
- Take a look at your credit reports. Contact credit bureaus for a free credit report. It may reveal unfamiliar accounts or transactions, so look closely at it.
- Change the logins to your online accounts. Change all the passwords to your key accounts and store the new unique and complex logins in a secure password manager, making it unreachable for scammers.
- File a police report. Contact your local police office and send them all the documentation you have related to the fraud. They will guide you through the following process.
- Use a VPN and antivirus software. Use a VPN to encrypt your online traffic and prevent hackers from spying on you and your confidential data. Also, use antivirus software to avoid malware infecting your device and causing a data breach.
Tips to protect yourself from identity theft
Now that you know how sneaky an identity thief can be when trying to steal your identity, here are some tips you can take to prevent identity theft and protect your reputation and finances.
- Create strong passwords. Always use complex and unique passwords for your online accounts. Never reuse them, and, most importantly, don’t disclose them to anyone.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA). Set up 2FA on your accounts to add an extra layer of protection for your accounts and sensitive data stored on them. It verifies your identity and keeps third parties away from your personal information.
- Scan your accounts. Check your financial accounts for suspicious transactions. Never ignore small amounts taken from your account because they can get bigger once the intruder knows the account is active.
- Shred documents. Never throw your important documents in the bin without shredding them first. You may never know where your sensitive data could land.
- Make sure your mail is safe. Check your mailbox often to avoid identity theft. In case you leave for a longer period of time, contact a trusty person to get your mail while you’re gone.
- Share less online. Be wary of what you share online. Innocent sharing of your information can be an absolute snack for a hacker spying on you.
- Use protection software. Purchase a trusty VPN to encrypt your online traffic and protect your data from prying eyes. Also, set up a reputable antivirus to safeguard your device from malware and viruses.
- Keep your software updated. Finally, keep your software up-to-date. The most recent versions usually contain the latest security patches against known vulnerabilities.
That’s about it. Just the basics you need to know to protect yourself from identity theft. Remember — knowledge is power, allowing you to safeguard your sensitive information from criminals trying to carry out an identity theft that may lead to troublesome financial loss.