It’s a sad fact—identity theft has become commonplace. Last year saw nearly 17 million new victims in the United States alone.(1) It’s a big club that nobody wants to join. Resolving identity theft and fraud can take months or even years, and your finances can take a big hit, too.
Is someone scoping out your identity?
There are many ways that identity thieves can steal your personal information. They might tap into your social media or business networking profiles. They steal purses, wallets, laptops, mobile phones, mail, and even trash. They watch over your shoulder as you login to accounts in public. They place credit card skimmers at the checkout of your local store or gas station. They call with bogus scams and send phishing emails to trick you into giving them information.
Data breaches are on the rise
Another way identity thieves obtain personal data is through corporate breaches, which have become commonplace. Marriott, Facebook, Google and Orbitz are but a few. These breaches impact millions of consumers worldwide. And one out of every three data breach victims experience fraud.(2)
The amount of data stolen in a single breach can be staggering. In the U.S., there were 1,636 breaches in the first nine months of 2018, compared to 119 in the United Kingdom, and 80 in Canada. In 2017, 43 percent of U.K. businesses and 19 percent of charities were breached.(3) Maybe that is why fraudsters can buy the complete identity file of a U.K. citizen on the dark web for just £820—passport information only for £40!(4)
Stay vigilant for these 15 warning signs of identity theft
Consumers must monitor for signs of identity theft and fraud. You can never afford to shrug off oddities on your credit card or bank statements. A quick reaction to the first symptoms of identity theft can help you avoid anxiety, lost time, and lost money.
Here are fifteen warning signs that someone else might be using your identity:
1. You receive a data breach notice from a company.
2. Your credit score is inexplicably dropping.
3. You notice withdrawals from your bank account you didn’t make.
4. There are charges on your credit card you can’t explain.
5. Credit card and bank statements or other bills stop arriving.
6. Calls come in from debt collectors about debts that aren’t yours.
7. You are unexpectedly turned down for a loan or credit card.
8. Your credit report shows accounts you did not open.
9. Merchants refuse your checks.
10. Your taxing authority received multiple filings to your account.
11. You receive a bill but have not purchased anything from the company.
12. Earnings on your U.S. Social Security Statement don’t match your records.
13. Insurance rates go up significantly, but you haven’t filed any claims.
14. You don’t receive an expected job offer after employer runs a background check.
15. An apartment rental application is turned down after the landlord checks credit.
Eric Russell, Fraud Analyst at Diamond Credit Union adds, “The main goal you should have is to present as many obstacles for fraudsters as possible. Fraudsters look for easy targets, and obstacles may frustrate them and they will move on to other targets so keep yourself protected by routinely taking a few easy steps. Unfortunately data breaches and Identity theft are occurring every day, but the good news is there are ways for you to hinder and frustrate the fraudsters so your chances of becoming a victim are drastically reduced. ”
Guard against identity theft with “SCAM”
Taking proactive precautions now can save you a world of trouble if it prevents identity thieves from obtaining your personal information. Use the “SCAM” acronym to improve your security:
STINGY is the smart way to approach sharing personal information. Turn up your settings and don’t overshare on social media. Shred paperwork and bills. Don’t respond to unsolicited calls or emails.
CHECK your financial information regularly. Review bank statements and credit card bills monthly for suspicious activity and challenge any unauthorized charges.
ASK for credit reports every year from the major credit bureaus. In the U.S. each bureau Is required to provide a free annual credit report.
MANAGE the damage. Take advantage of a program where professionals help you resolve identity compromises, like the services powered by CyberScout.