What Are Signs of Identity Theft?
Identity theft can occur in many ways. One sign of trouble is a bank statement with charges you don’t recognize. Another indicator of ID theft occurs when your bank card is denied while you’re trying to make a purchase. And unexpected calls from a collection agency is another flag that something’s not right with your finances. Let’s take a closer look at the signs of identity theft and learn how to check if your identity has been stolen:
1. Your credit report has accounts you don’t recognize
An essential step to identity theft protection is to check your credit report regularly. Look for any financial irregularities and report them right away. They could be signs that someone’s stolen your identity. You can check your credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com.
Enrolling in American Family’s credit monitoring services is a great way to stay ahead of the curve and keep a close watch on potential fraud. You’ll receive regular updates regarding your credit report, including inquiries, accounts and changes of information. All of this at a highly discounted rate for being an American Family customer.
2. You’re unexpectedly denied for a line of credit or other service
If you’re applying for a loan that requires a credit check and you’re unexpectedly denied, this could be a big red flag. It can indicate that your identity has been used without your knowledge. ID thieves will open accounts under your name and leave them unpaid. And you get to manage the fallout — by repairing credit and building up your good name again.
3. Your credit or debit card gets declined unexpectedly
One of the more common telltale signs that your identity has been compromised is an unexpectedly declined credit or debit card. You’ll need to contact your card issuer immediately if this happens.
4. You’re getting collection calls for accounts you didn’t open
It’s the call we all dread — unending telemarketing calls from unknown numbers. When you’re screening calls and ignoring unknown or unrecognized numbers, you could be ignoring vital news that your identity has been compromised. If you notice bill collectors calling for debts you didn’t knowingly make, then you may be dealing with a case of identity theft.
But remember, use caution when communicating with unrecognized numbers. It can be a clever way that ID thieves leverage to obtain more personally identifiable information about you. A legitimate collection agency should already have the information about you that they need to conduct business. And never volunteer your social security number to callers.
5. You receive inexplicable bills
Perhaps you’re getting more mail than usual — bills for things you never signed up for. One of the surest ways to know your identity has been compromised is when you receive billing statements for credit cards that you never picked up.
6. Your mail stops coming
Identity thieves think of crafty ways to steal your information. For example, a thief could change the address that your mail goes to, rerouting all your bank and billing statements to another address. If you receive paper billing statements and notice they no longer arrive, you may need to contact your credit card issuer. Additionally, you may need to verify that your mailbox is secure. It’s one more great reason to enroll in paperless billing with American Family Insurance.
7. Unsolicited credit cards arrive in your mailbox
Sometimes, identity thieves with access to your mailbox will enroll you for a card and attempt to intercept them as they arrive at your home. If you happen to find a card you didn’t sign up for, you may be the victim of credit card fraud. Be sure to check with the major credit bureaus and the issuing bank and take action, like placing a temporary block on your credit and cancelling the credit card.
8. You see unfamiliar charges on your bank statement
Maybe you’ve noticed charges you didn’t make. It’s not uncommon for fraudsters to steal card data through a variety of means — from ATMs to point-of-sale systems, to data breaches online.
If your bank has notified you of a suspicious charge and you later had to cancel that card, consider yourself lucky — thankfully your bank intervened. So review your bank statements carefully and make sure each item you’re charged for is a charge made with your knowledge.
9. The IRS contacts you
You might receive word from the IRS that someone has already filed a tax return using your social security number. Tax identity theft is a growing trend in tax fraud and more Americans are falling victim with some 1.5 million returns considered fraudulent during the 2016-2017 tax season.
Tax identity theft occurs when a thief uses your stolen identity, which includes your social security number, to file a tax return. Thieves do this to steal your tax refund before you file.
Thieves may also use your social security number for employment opportunities which you would be left to pay income taxes on.
What are the Most Common Types of Identity Theft?
We listed nine unique examples of identity theft, but the reality may be that there are endless ways your identity can be stolen by dedicated thieves. Here are some of the more common types of identity theft:
1. Driver's license identity theft
One of the most common forms of ID theft begins with your driver’s license. Typically, an ID thief takes your driver’s license and applies for other forms of identification or tries to make purchases using your identity. Or, perhaps worst of all, they use your identification during a criminal act which could entangle you into legal trouble.
2. Tax identity theft
According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, a part of the Federal Trade Commission, tax fraud accounted for 12% of the total top five types of identity theft in 2018. An increasingly common practice for thieves, this type of identity theft can rob you of your refund. Or worse yet, it may leave you paying penalties and income taxes for undocumented earnings under your social security number.
3. Online data theft
As businesses and consumers alike depend on electronic funds transfer and the processing of payments, there is a growing volume of personal and financial data at risk of being stolen at any given time. Often referred to as a data breach, your stored personally identifiable information can be stolen when hackers are able to access unsecured data.
4. Debit or credit card theft
Debit and credit card fraud are two types of crimes involving the purchase of something that you didn’t authorize. What’s more alarming is that thieves can steal your bank card number, PIN and other information — and make a transaction that doesn’t require a physical card.
5. Medical identity theft
Medical identity theft is an act of taking someone’s identity for medical treatment. This type of ID fraud can leave you owing thousands in medical bills if left unchecked. According to an Experian study, 27% of data breaches in 2017 were medical or healthcare-related.
What Information Does Someone Need to Steal Your Identity?
Starting with a name and address, thieves will typically look for other personally identifiable pieces of information to round out an identity theft. This could include your social security number, place of birth and any bank account details.
When you enroll in American Family’s credit monitoring service, our partner CyberScout will continuously monitor for first signs of identity theft and other potential indicators that your identity has been compromised.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Identity Theft?
The best defense against identity theft is a credit monitoring program to keep you in the know, and identity theft insurance to be there when the unexpected occurs. While identity theft can’t be prevented, it can be mitigated with quick action and a solid plan.
And best of all, when you enroll in our identity theft coverage, you’ll be assigned an identity theft specialist at CyberScout to help you recover your good name in the event of a data breach. They’ll be with you every step of the way.
1. Contact the banks or businesses where fraud occurred
At the earliest signs of identity theft, you should at least contact your bank. This may require you to freeze or close any compromised accounts.
2. Place fraud alerts with the credit bureaus
You should then contact all three major credit bureaus independently. Contacting each is advised, as it will alert each credit agency and help to ensure your identity stays safe.
You’ll want to request a fraud alert that lasts a year. Doing this will make the opening new accounts more difficult as it requires a business to verify your identification before issuing credit to a person making the request. If you’re a victim of identity theft, you can extend that fraud alert to seven years.