Identity theft and related crimes are on the rise. As everything becomes digitized, fraudsters are following the trends and adapting attack plans. We love online shopping, and we expose most of our day-to-day routines and preferences on multiple social media platforms.
You might not know it yet, but your personal identifiable information is already scattered all over the web. Every account you create, and every message you post online expands your digital footprint.
Anybody can fall victim to identity theft at any time. Common telltale signs include:
- A service provider/company informs you about a data breach – luckily, data breach notification laws require entities that suffered a data breach to notify their customers. Most affected companies will issue a press release or send notification emails to victims.
- Fake online accounts created in your name – when trying to sign up to online platforms, you notice somebody else has already used your personal information to create the account. In a best-case scenario, a friend or family member might find discrepancies or fake accounts and report them to you.
- Missing or unexpected bills – bills you used to receive regularly start disappearing. This can happen if identity thieves change your mailing address. You can even start to receive bills for premium services or invoices for purchases you didn’t make.
- Random charges or withdrawals from your bank account – small discrepancies in your credit card bill can indicate fraud. In most cases, criminals will make small purchases to check whether transactions go through.
- Health insurance is rejected or inaccurate medical records – if your health insurance number is stolen, you might receive fraudulent bills from your insurance provider. Denied medical coverage can also be possible as identity thieves max out your health benefits.
- Fraudulent tax returns are filed in your name – another red flag when the IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number. IRS records might also show that you have received income from an unknown employer.
Identity theft is not just a case of account fraud when someone steals your credit card information. If your identity is stolen, a criminal can use your Social Security number to take out a loan, rent an apartment or even get a job, all in your name. You can go months before even noticing that you are a victim of identity theft. The tip-off could be a past due notice in the mail or a phone call from a collection agency.
Although identity theft is common, authorities still have a hard time tracking criminals. If you notice something wrong, the most important step is to act as soon as possible.
Learn more about how you can take ownership of your personal data.