There were 12.6 million victims of identity theft in 2012, according to a Javelin Strategy & Research study. That was a million more victims than in 2011.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines suggest that recovery from identity theft can take months. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs of identity theft and take swift corrective action. Based on information from the FTC and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, here are some of those signs.
7 Signs that Indicate ID Theft
The IRS Rejects Your Tax Return
(Image via Flickr by Steven Depolo)
If an identity thief uses your name and Social Security number to file a tax return before you do, the IRS will reject your return since you seem to have already filed it. You could lose your tax refund or be liable for someone else’s income unless you contact the IRS.
You Do Not Receive Bills or Statements
Failing to receive a bill or statement could mean a thief has usurped your identity and reported an address change. It’s a way that thieves prevent you from seeing unauthorized transactions. Contact the bill or statement’s issuer to correct account and transaction information. Then set up new accounts.
You Receive Unexpected Calls from Collection Agencies
If a thief uses your identity to buy something without making payment, the collection agency won’t call the thief. It will call you.
Should you get such a call, resist the temptation to hang up. Explain the situation and get as much information about the transaction as you can. Then report that information to the appropriated parties.
You See Perplexing Transactions on Bank Statements
(Image via Flickr by Chase Lindberg)
Any unknown transaction, regardless of size, warrants investigation. If small transactions complete unchallenged, larger ones may follow. It’s best to alert your bank at the first sign of trouble.
You Have Problems with Credit Card Transactions
Suppose your favorite store or restaurant rejects your credit card, and you’re sure that you haven’t exceeded your credit limit. Someone else, however, might have done so for you.
Contact the card’s issuer as soon as possible to explain the situation, put a stop unauthorized transactions, and get a new card. You would be amazed at the bizarre ways people use to steal your information.
Your Credit Score Has Changed
You can get one free credit report per year from each major credit bureau. If your score has changed, check for new sources of credit that you didn’t authorize. Too much available credit can negatively affect your ability to get loans for such things as a car or a home.
Health Insurance Providers Reject Claims
(Image via Flickr by David Goehring)
If an identity thief has obtained your health insurance information, you may receive bills for services that someone else received. This will distort your medical history. Plus, if the thief exceeds your plan’s coverage limits you may not get coverage when you need it.
Protecting Yourself from ID Theft
Vigilance is your best defense against identity theft. Here are some suggestions:
Report loss or theft of checks, credit or debit cards, identification cards, and smartphones as soon as possible
Check your credit score annually
Review monthly bank and credit card statements carefully
Change online passwords often
Do not share passwords
Use a cross-cut shredder to prepare documents for disposal
Dispose of hard drives and other devices that hold personal data properly
For more peace of mind, consider an online monitoring service. These businesses check activities related to your identity’s integrity around the clock. Should an online monitoring service detect a questionable incident, it will investigate and take remedial action.
These companies’ services include warranties. Should they fail to detect covered incidents, you would receive compensation for your losses up to the amount of the warranty. It’s like an identity theft insurance policy.
Identity theft is not going away in this Internet age, but by taking preventive measures and responding quickly to warnings, you can lessen identity theft’s impact and become a less tempting target.
Hailey is a recent graduate with a degree in Journalism. Now that she isn’t face first in books she is trying to travel as much as she can. She writes in her free time between fixing up her new house and teaching people how to live a longer, healthier life.