It’s been a couple of months since there’s been a major data breach in the news, but that doesn’t mean we’re all safe from identity theft. In fact, it’s the months after a major breach that you need to pay the closest attention. The breach simply means someone may have gained access to your information. It’s when they use it that you can run into problems.
So how can you tell if someone is using your personal information to commit identity fraud?
There’s no single answer, but there are a handful of warning signs you should be on the lookout for, as they may be signs of identity theft.
1. Unfamiliar transactions appear on your credit card or bank statement
Make sure you’re checking your statements every month. Better yet, check them every day online. If you see anything that doesn’t look right, let your bank know right away. The sooner you report fraud, the faster it can be resolved. In the case of your credit cards, make sure your bank cancels your card and assigns you a new card number. That should put a stop to any further misuse.
This goes for accounts with a zero balance too. In fact, it goes double for them, since you probably don’t pay as close attention to those statements.
2. Unknown account appears on your credit report
Have you checked your credit reports this year? If not, you need to. You can request a free copy of your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus every year, so make sure you do. Better yet, stagger your requests, so you can get a look at one report every four months.
This is a critical step in monitoring for identity theft, because if an identity thief opens a new account with your information, those bills probably won’t ever show up your doorstep. At least, not until they’ve already crippled your credit and been sent to collections!
If you see anything unusual, contact the lender that’s listed on your report right away.
3. You haven’t received a credit card or bank statement
Unless you’ve signed up for paperless statements, you should expect to receive your statements around the same time each month. If you don’t, it’s time to get suspicious. Log in to your online account, and make sure your address is still accurate. If you haven’t set up an online account, call the company. Missing credit card statements could be a sign that someone has changed your account information.
4. You receive a medical bill for something you didn’t have done
This is a huge red flag, but don’t rush to the conclusion that it was identity theft. Hospitals make mistakes. Just give them a call and make sure. If someone is trying to use your information to receive medical treatment, call your insurance company right away. And then call the police. Medical identity theft can be extremely dangerous and costly!
5. Your username and password no longer works for your online account
Many of the biggest data breaches had nothing to do with financial information or personal data. The thieves were trying to get their hands on login information. Why? Because most people use the same username and password combinations for multiple accounts. If an identity thief gets their hands on your Xbox account credentials, it might get them into your online bank account too. Or PayPal. Or stock portfolio.
Or maybe they just really like playing video games. Either way, username and password combinations are big business. If you noticed that yours aren’t working, call the company right away. And if you use the same credentials anywhere else, change them immediately.
None of these are definite signs of identity theft. Errors happen. Mail gets delayed. You might have cap locks on and didn’t realize it. But they could also be signs that someone is using your personal information fraudulently. Best to check it out.