In 2018, 444,344 cases of identity theft occurred in the United States. Fast forward to 2020, and the number of reports has more than tripled to reach 1,387,615 cases.
No one wants to be part of those stats, but anyone can be a victim, including kids and teens. You can have your identity stolen if you lose your wallet with all your IDs and cards in it. Criminals can then use your details to obtain loans and credit under your name.
That’s why you need to learn about the most common signs of identity theft. This way, you can notify the appropriate authorities and put a stop to such crimes as soon as possible.
We’ve rounded up the top indicators of identity theft in this guide, so be sure to keep reading.
Unusual Charges on Credit Card Statements
This is one of the first signs of identity theft, so it’s vital to review your statements thoroughly. Sometimes, fraudsters make small charges to make their crimes less apparent. In other cases, criminals test stolen cards out before making a massive purchase.
So, no matter how small the charges are, dispute them if you’re certain you didn’t make them.
Your Credit Card Issuer Notifies You of Transactions You Didn’t Make
Many credit card companies now send SMS or email alerts for attempted purchases. Some issuers send these for every transaction, regardless of the amount. Others only do so if an attempted transaction meets or exceeds a certain threshold.
If your credit cards have this feature, pay attention to the alerts you receive. Most notifications contain the name of the merchant and the location. If you’re not familiar with the seller or the purchase is from a faraway place, call your issuer right away.
Your Statements Stopped Coming
If you stopped receiving credit card statements, you might be a victim of an account takeover (ATO). ATOs are common types of identity theft wherein a fraudster poses as you using your details. They then use your stolen personal and banking details to alter your accounts.
If you stopped receiving statements, the criminal likely changed your registered address. Call your credit card providers if you don’t get your statements on time to determine what’s going on.
You Get Bills for Accounts You Didn’t Open
You’re likely a victim of identity theft if you start receiving bills for accounts you didn’t open. These can be credit card statements or loan payment reminders. A fraudster likely opened these accounts or took out loans under your name.
Either way, you should contact the creditor right away to tell them about your situation.
Delinquencies on Credit Reports for Debt You Didn’t Take On
As of the fourth quarter of 2020, 2.12% of credit card debts from US commercial banks were in a state of delinquency.
Delinquent accounts are those with at least 30 days of late or missed payments. However, many creditors only notify credit reporting agencies after two months of non-payment. Once reported, delinquencies appear on credit reports and remain there for seven years.
Any negative credit report information can pull down your credit score. They can hurt your creditworthiness and render you unable to get new credit. It’s even worse if those delinquencies were for debts that aren’t yours, to begin with.
So, as soon as you see these negative items on your report, dispute them with the reporting agency. You can also check out the guides and resources on how to dispute credit report at Financial Justice Now.
Unknown Debt Collectors Start Calling You
After three to six months of default, loan and credit providers turn debts over to collectors. Debt collection agencies can then start calling the people who have unpaid debts.
That’s why debt collection calls for debts you didn’t take on are some of the most severe signs of identity theft. This means fraudsters have already piled on debts under your name.
If you start to receive such calls, inform the collector right away that you’re a victim of identity theft. You need to tell them over the phone and in writing that you aren’t responsible for those unpaid debts. It’s also a good idea to reach out to an identity theft lawyer to help prove your innocence.
You Received an Unexpected Credit or Loan Rejection
As of the latest reports (2020), the average credit score in the US has risen to 711. Creditors and lenders consider this a good score, so they extend credit to those with such scores.
Now, suppose you’re certain of having a good credit score, and you’ve always paid your other debts on time. So, you applied for a loan or a new credit card, expecting it to get approved. Instead, you got shocked because the lender gave you a big no.
If the reason is due to information on your credit report, the lender should let you know. By law, US creditors and lending institutions must provide reasons for the rejection. They should also let you know that you have the right to obtain a free credit report.
Don’t think twice about getting that free copy, as it can tell you if you’re a victim of identity theft. You might have delinquencies on your report for credit cards you didn’t open or loans you never took on. Dispute these fraudulent accounts as soon as you see them.
You Can’t File a Tax Return
In 2020, a total of 89,391 identity theft-related tax fraud cases got filed in the US. Many victims couldn’t file a tax return in their own name because someone else already did. The thieves used the victims’ information to file for and obtain a fraudulent refund.
You should get in touch with the Internal Revenue Service to address this problem right away. You should also notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the local police. The police can create a report to help facilitate the resolution of your case.
One key step to prevent identity theft related to taxes is to file yours as early as possible. This way, you can thwart fraudsters before they file a return for their financial gain.
Always Be on Your Toes for These Common Signs of Identity Theft
As you can see, there are many telling signs of identity theft that you should be on the lookout for. Once you experience any of them, be sure to notify the right departments or agencies. Otherwise, criminals can keep piling debts under your name, compromising your financial future.
Interested in more ways to safeguard and secure your identity, finances, and future? Then please feel free to check out our other educational resources and guides!