Identity thieves use stolen personal information to open fraudulent accounts, empty bank accounts, and wreak havoc on their victims’ credit and finances. If you become a victim of identity theft, it’s important to catch it early.
The sooner you find out your identity has been stolen, the sooner you can take action and prevent any further damage from occurring. Here are eight warning signs you might be a victim of identity theft:
1. Debt Collection Calls for Accounts You Didn’t Open
Unexpected calls from debt collectors are one of the telltale signs of identity theft. By the time debt collectors start calling, accounts have already been opened in your name and gone unpaid for many months.
If you are getting debt collection calls about an account you never opened, tell the debt collection agency that the debt isn’t yours and ask them to stop calling. You will need to check your credit report immediately to identify accounts you don’t own and report identity theft to the credit bureaus.
2. Inaccurate Information on Your Credit Report
When inaccurate information lands on your credit report, it could be an early sign of identity theft. When you read your credit report, look for accounts you didn’t open or hard inquiries from credit applications you never submitted. These items will need to be disputed with the credit bureaus and removed from your credit report.
Credit monitoring services can help you stay on top of identity theft by providing alerts and informing you of changes as soon as they happen.
3. Credit Application Denials
Fraudulent accounts on your credit report can block you from qualifying for loans, credit cards, and other financial products. Oftentimes, individuals don’t know they’ve been victims of identity theft until their application is denied.
If a lender or creditor takes a negative action against you – such as denying an application for credit – due to the information in your credit report, they are required to give you the reason for denial and provide a free copy of your credit report if you request it within 60 days.
4. Data Breaches
Both small businesses and the largest companies on the planet are vulnerable to data breaches. Security vulnerabilities leave your personal data exposed to hackers and thieves. When a data breach happens to a company you hold an account with, you are at risk for identity theft.
5. Strange Transactions or Charges
If you see strange charges on your credit card or unauthorized withdrawals from your bank account, you need to report them immediately. A thief has gained access to your accounts.
6. Your Bills Stop Coming
Thieves sometimes use change-of-address forms to have your mail forwarded to another address. If your monthly bills stop arriving, you should call the company to make sure they’re sending your correspondence to the correct address.
7. Strange Bills Start Arriving
Alternatively, if you start receiving strange bills in the mail, it could be because an account has been opened in your name without your permission. When this happens, you should contact the company and tell them to stop service immediately. Check your credit report for fraudulent accounts.
8. Someone Has Tried to File Taxes in Your Name
Tax scams occur every year, and some are very sophisticated. With the right information, tax scammers can file tax returns in your name and try to claim your refund. If the IRS notifies you that more than one tax return has been filed in your name, you will need to report that you’ve been a victim of tax fraud.