Identity theft is a devastating financial crime that can leave victims struggling to pick up the pieces. And your identity may have been compromised. Almost everyone has had their personal data leaked to criminals in a data breach at this point. That means your Social Security number, birthday, address, credit card numbers, and more could be floating around the dark web. Maybe your info has been compromised for months or years.
You do all you can to protect yourself from identity theft, but how do you tell if you’ve been a victim? There are telltale signs that someone has stolen your identity. Here’s what they are.
Your Credit Score Changes Unexpectedly
It’s fairly normal for your credit score to fluctuate by a few points over the course of the month, and it can even drop by a number of points if you miss a payment or run up a large credit card bill. A sudden, unexplained drop in your credit score could be a sign that an identity thief has taken out a loan or credit card in your name and then failed to make the payments.
You See Strange New Inquiries or Accounts in Your Credit Report
Identity thieves will use your information to open new credit accounts, take out loans, or even open utilities accounts in your name. Sometimes, they’ll keep making the payments for a while until they’re able to max out the account, then they’ll crawl back into the woodwork. Use an ID protection service to monitor your credit report for new accounts and inquiries.
You’re Getting Calls from Debt Collectors
If you’re getting calls or letters from debt collectors about paying a debt that you don’t owe, it could be a sign your identity was stolen. Someone has run up debts in your name and now they’re not paying. It typically takes months for debts to go to collections, so if you start getting calls or letters from debt collectors, you need to take fast action. It means your identity was stolen months ago.
You Have a Credit Application Denied for Reasons That Seem Wrong
If you have a history of making your payments on time and lenders have generally been happy to work with you, and then you get a credit or loan application denied out of the blue, it can be a sign that your identity has been stolen. Ask the lender what credit score they used and what factors determined that score. You can decide if the factors make sense given your financial habits and history. You’ll also find out if your credit score has dropped and whether there has been suspicious activity, like missed payments or collection notices, on your credit report.
You Have Bank or Credit Card Transactions That Don’t Seem Familiar
Always read your bank and credit card statements every month to make sure that you actually made all of the transactions. Unfamiliar transactions on your credit or bank accounts can mean that someone has stolen that financial information and is using it for their own gain.
You’re Getting Statements or Bills That You Don’t Expect, or Not Getting Ones That You Do Expect
If you’re getting statements or bills for accounts that you didn’t open or money that you didn’t borrow, that’s a sure sign that someone has stolen your identity. If you don’t receive bills and statements that you’re expecting, that can also be a sign of identity theft. Sometimes thieves will steal your bank or credit card information and change your address in the account so they can get your statements, so missing statements and bills can be a sign your identity has been compromised. To make sure you’re getting all the mail you should be getting, enroll in Informed Delivery by USPS.
You’re Seeing Odd Activity on Your Social Security Account
Your Social Security number is the master key to your identity and financial life. Thieves buy and sell Social Security numbers on the dark web, and some may even make up new Social Security numbers to create simulated identities to use for fraudulent purposes. Set up an account with the Social Security Administration so that you can monitor your Social Security number for unusual activity – such as someone using it to work a job in your name, or collecting your benefits behind your back.
If your identity is stolen, you need to act quickly. Know what signs to look out for, so you can fight back against identity fraud.