Identity theft is on the rise. Between 2020 and 2021, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission noted an increase of more than 19 percent in reported fraud, and financial losses due to identity theft amounted to more than $6.1 billion in 2021.
The last thing you want is to become another statistic, but in many cases, identity theft is all but impossible to prevent. You can use identity theft protection tools available from reputable cybersecurity providers, and you can be careful to avoid disclosing sensitive information when you don’t need to. Still, most of your energy regarding identity theft should be going toward recognizing the earliest signs of a stolen identity, which will help you mitigate your losses and recover with greater speed. Without further ado, here are some of the signs of identity theft for you to watch for:
Alerts From Multi-factor Authentication
Companies that maintain extremely sensitive information, like financial institutions or healthcare providers, usually utilize multi-factor authentication to prevent non-authorized users from gaining access to accounts. If you are receiving alerts from authentication services that you know you are not currently using, an identity thief could be close to gaining access to some of your most precious data.
Unexplained Charges on Your Credit Card
Sometimes, companies make mistakes and send erroneous charges to credit and debit accounts. However, if you are noticing a number of unexplained charges, it is more likely that an identity thief has acquired your card numbers and is using them to their profit. You can cancel these charges with your credit company, but you should also shut down your accounts and receive new card numbers as soon as possible.
Bills for Unfamiliar Expenses
Though some spam mail masquerades as unfamiliar bills, you should follow up on any unfamiliar bills that seem legitimate. If the company issuing the bill doesn’t seem to be fraudulent, you should notify them that you are a victim of identity theft. If you file a police report right away, you should avoid culpability for the expenses, and you may be able to begin repairing your credit sooner than if you simply ignore the unfamiliar bill.
Unauthorized Withdrawals From Your Bank Account
Many identity thieves will test the safety of accessing your account by withdrawing small amounts at first. If you do not deny the charges or change your account numbers to protect your savings, they will begin withdrawing larger and larger amounts. If you notice any amount of unauthorized withdrawal, you should notify your bank immediately.
Rejection for Insurance Claims or Credit Applications
Some identity thieves operate by taking out loans in your name or filing claims with your insurance provider to access funds. You should follow up if you receive a denial from a credit application or an insurance claim, especially if you are fairly certain that you have good credit.
Errors on Your Credit Report
You can request a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once per year, which means every four months, you should be reviewing your credit report. This gives you plenty of opportunities to notice errors on your report, which could be important signs of identity theft. Unfamiliar accounts or credit inquiries should warrant contact with the credit bureau, which will investigate the claim and remove false information.
Advertisements for Expensive Goods
Often, identity thieves will use your name and funds to purchase expensive, luxury items that they can resell for cash, which is easier to use anonymously for their own expenses. If you begin receiving catalogs for exceedingly expensive goods that you have never bought, you may want to investigate your accounts or check your credit report for additional signs of identity theft.
A Lack of Mail or Emails
Interestingly, identity thieves may reroute your mail to their location, so they can intercept your sensitive information and find other ways to profit off your identity. If you do not receive an important document in a timely manner, it may have been diverted by an identity thief. You might ask contacts to send you sensitive information through a secure portal; you can also set up an anonymous post office box to receive your mail. Regardless, you should get in the habit of shredding any documents that have your contact information on them, which is all an identity thief needs to get started.
Mail Addressed to an Unfamiliar Name
When you move into a new home, you might receive mail to the previous resident for a few weeks or months. However, if out of the blue you start receiving mail to an unfamiliar name, you should recognize a big red flag of identity theft. After this event, you should watch your accounts like a hawk and freeze your credit to prevent unnecessary damage to your rating.