20 Identity Theft Warning Signs to Watch Out For
Imagine waking up one day to find your bank account drained or finding out that your credit score has plummeted because someone used your identity to take out debt in your name. Identity theft is a real-life nightmare that can do serious damage to your financial security and well-being.
To protect yourself against potential identity theft, it’s important to be aware of some common warning signs so you can spot them early on and take the appropriate steps to prevent a major breach.
What is identity theft?
The term identity theft was coined in 1964. It describes any situation in which a person’s personal information, like their name, address, phone number, social security number, credit card or bank information, etc., is used without their consent, often to commit fraud or other crimes.
Someone who commits identity theft deliberately uses someone else’s identity to gain financial advantages like applying for credit, filing taxes, or getting medical services.
20 Identity Theft Warning Signs
- Unfamiliar charges on your bank account
- Bounced checks when you know you have the funds
- A sudden drop in your credit score
- Passwords to financial accounts that stop working – you can’t sign in
- Hard inquiries on your credit report that you did not authorize
“My wallet was stolen at a bar. Then my identity theft nightmare began.”
Jessica Roy lost her wallet, and less than a year later, she was on the hook for stealing a Tesla, getting into a car accident, buying a new iPhone, opening two new checking accounts, writing bad checks for around $13,000 at a time, and more. Of course, she didn’t do any of these things she was, instead, the victim of identity theft.
Read her story
- Unfamiliar credit card charges
- New credit cards or loans in your name
- Unfamiliar bill statements in the mail
- An unexpected increase in creditor calls
- Suspicious login attempts to your social media
“Anndorie Cromar’s driver’s license was stolen in 2006, and it nearly cost her custody of her children”
Months after her driver’s license was stolen in 2006, a woman used it at an area hospital when delivering a baby who tested positive for methamphetamines. Because of the medical identity theft, child protective services believed Cromar had delivered that baby and began an investigation that nearly cost her custody of her own four children.
Read her story
- When your ID is lost or stolen
- Health insurance benefits are being maxed out without your knowledge
- Fraud alerts from your bank account(s)
- Utilities or other services are disconnected unexpectedly.
- You are missing mail with personal information in it
“My identity was stolen years ago, but it’s a nightmare that affects me to this day.”
In February 2018, Martha Bedgood dismissed what would turn out to be the first sign of identity theft. Her husband’s phone suddenly went dead, and although they initially thought it was a network error, they would later discover that someone had stolen his phone number. The thief took over his phone number, locking him out of his account. Now armed with the phone, they were able to use two-factor authentication to access his email. Things quickly escalated from bad to worse, leaving both Martha and her husband with stolen identities.
Read their story
- Your tax return may have been stolen
- Income is reported in your name that is not yours
- You are sued for a debt that you don’t recognize
- There is a warrant in your name
- You receive calls verifying unfamiliar purchases
What To Do if You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen
If you believe your identity has been stolen, there are a few things you should do right away.
- Change your passwords on all your accounts, including email and social media.
- Freeze your credit
- Alert your bank or credit card company of unauthorized charges
- Report identity (ID) theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.
In some cases, you may want to file a police report. This can be necessary if you know the person who stole your identity, they used your name in an interaction with the police, or a creditor or another company requires you to provide a police report.
Preventing Identity Theft
When it comes to identity theft, prevention is key! Set yourself up for success by keeping your personal information secure and monitoring your accounts for unusual information.
- Use strong passwords
- Do not carry around your Social Security card
- Only give out your Social Security number when necessary
- Shred mail and documents with your personal information before discarding
- Regularly check your bank statements for unusual activity
- Consider protecting your identity with identity theft insurance
*Please Note: This blog does not substitute professional legal advice from an attorney. Only your lawyer is qualified to help you make legal decisions.