Imagine the police knocking on your door to inform you that you’ve been incriminated. Furthermore, being regarded as a suspect in an ongoing investigation. Alternatively, being called and asked to pay a debt, which for all your worth, you can’t recall procuring. You just might be a victim of identity theft. That’s why it’s important to how to know if someone stole your identity.
These are extreme cases, but if data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is anything to go by, cases of stolen identity could get worse than this and you just might be a possible victim.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are on average about 9 million cases of identity theft. This is in the United States alone each year.
This “silent crime”, identity theft is real and it’s growing.
Over the course of this article, you can expect to read more on:
- The signs of identity theft
- How to correctly verify if your identity has been stolen
- What can you do if you’re a victim of stolen identity?
- What you can do to avoid being a victim of identity theft
1How to Find Out If Someone Stole Your Identity
People become aware that their identity has been stolen after a very long time, several months or even years. The reason for this is that no one accepts the fact that they too can be a victim of identity theft.
If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, here are a few ways to determine whether you’re a victim:
Irregular Bank Statements
Don’t recognize some entries in your bank statement? Maybe even after following up, you’re certain you didn’t initiate any of the suspicious entries. These transactions can be in the form of cash withdrawals, gift card purchases or purchases made on e-commerce sites.
Confirm this by visiting your bank and if possible, go through the list of transactions with a bank employee. This will mostly likely be someone from the fraud division. You’ll also need to compare the list of purchases made on your card with those you made yourself. Any discrepancies, no matter how minor confirms the case to be identity theft. This is one major sign how to know if someone stole your identity.
Tax Return Errors
When filing your tax returns you get an error. This might not be evidence of identity theft. However, if your returns are already filed and may be causing this error, then you’ll have to contact the tax authority in your country.
After contacting the tax authorities, confirm the various sources of incomes registered on your name. You might find that you are listed as having one or several sources of income that you have no idea about.
Most criminals do this with the intention of getting your tax refund.
You are notified of a data breach which may have resulted in the leaking of your personal information. It could be from your employer, insurer or even financial institution.
If this is the case, you can be mostly certain that your identity has been stolen. For instance, if the breach was at your bank, it’ll be a case of financial identity theft that’ll lead to you losing money. If it’s from your insurer, you might have claims filed on your insurance. In this case it may be medical identity theft.
Late or Missing Mail
In this case, the person stealing your identity may be going through your mailbox to get your personal information. However, this may not be proof enough. To confirm this, consider renting a closed box at the post office.
In the case of missing your mail, the person who stole your identity may be making purchases or doing something illegal with your identity. In order to keep you unaware, they may be intercepting your mail. Get a closed box at the post office. This, together with an alert whenever you have new mail, will keep you in touch with your incoming mail. This will help uncover what’s being done with your identity.
Denial of Credit
It may not be a sign of identity theft, however, if you’ve been consistent with your credit card payments; it should be a sign of concern.
To confirm this, you’ll have to request your credit report as well as a list of payments from your card. Whomever stole your identity has, most likely, maxed out your cards, gotten other credit cards in your name and even possibly ruined your credit score.
2So What Can You Do If You’re Certain Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
It’s quite unnerving, and even hard to believe that you are a victim of stolen identity. However, should you find yourself in such a position, here’s what to do if your identity is stolen:
- The first step to take would be to inform the authorities, more so those that deal with fraud cases. Depending on where you live, there may be specialized agencies; for instance, in the US the FTC
- You’ll also have to submit a report with local law enforcement.They might offer less assistance when it comes to apprehending the fraudsters, (at least this is the case with this “silent crime”) however this is necessary due to the following reasons:
- If you want to exonerate yourself, this is necessary. This is especially true if you have be falsely implicated in a crime resulting from your stolen identity.
- This information might just help the police in nabbing these criminals.
- Call your bank/ financial institution informing them that your identity has been stolen.
Ask them to freeze your account or, even better, place a fraud alert on your account. This will prevent criminals from causing more damage and even help with your credit report should a lender try to access it.
- If you’re a victim of medical identity theft, inform your insurer on the matter. Doing this will prevent claims from being filed in your identity.
3How to Prevent Identity Theft
How to know if someone stole your identity is one part of the solution, knowing how to protect from identity theft is the other. However, stolen identity and identity theft is not completely preventable. There are measures that’ll surely give those frauds a hard time should they consider going after your identity.
- Always shred any document that may have your personal identifiable information before dumping it in the trash.
Why? Dumpster diving is common among most attackers. This is where they rummage through your trash in the hopes of finding anything that may have your personal information. Now with this, it could be receipts, credit cards or even bank transaction slips.
- Never log in to your bank account while on public Wi-Fi. This also applies to online shopping as well.
Unless you want to be the next victim, only use your private Wi-Fi or mobile internet connection.
- Ensure you have a proper up to date antivirus installed on your personal computer. This will help flag any malicious files you may be downloading or sites you might be visiting.
- At all times, have a strong password on your computer. And to be clear, never use names, birthdays, or any other personal information that can be easily found in the public domain. (And this includes public/government databases; they’re not that safe, really)
- This is also obvious, but please refrain from sharing your personal information on the internet (Yes, even social media)
Your cat or dog’s name, or even when your kid was born (You may be posting such unknowingly on social media); well these are just clues you’re giving these criminals
That about sums it up for how to know if someone stole your identity. Additionally, what you can do about it. Be smart, stay safe.