identity theft

5 Signs Your Identity May Have Been Stolen


Over 12 million Americans had their identities stolen last year, an 8% increase from the year before. Here are 5 tell-tale signs that your identity may have been stolen.

By:  Carly Wright

12.6 million Americans had their identities stolen last year, eight percent more than the year before. You might think you’d discover the crime quickly, but approximately 15 percent of victims don’t learn of the theft for four years or more. You needn’t be in the dark about this growing crime epidemic if you look for these tell-tale signs.

Your Credit Reports Have Errors
If you’re a victim of identity theft, it’s likely to show on your credit reports. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act entitles Americans to order a free annual credit report online from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Read through your credit reports carefully and note anything unusual. The Federal Trade Commission says unexplained accounts and incorrect personal information are common signs of identity theft.

Similarly, you should go through your credit card and savings account statements carefully. Follow up any charges you didn’t make with your financial institution and the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline.

Debt Collectors Start Calling
If you have a squeaky clean financial record, you might assume any calls from debt collectors are simple systems errors. However it can also be a sign that your identity’s been stolen. The Federal Trade Commission says it’s not unusual for identity thieves to open credit accounts, max them out, and leave the bills waiting for unsuspecting victims.

You’re Missing Your Mail
Be aware when you typically receive your credit card statements and utility bills and note whether you’re receiving these documents before the end of the billing cycles. If your statements aren’t delivered regularly, follow this up with your card or utility companies. It’s not uncommon for identity thieves to change postal details to hide their illegal activities. You could spoil their fun by subscribing to e-statements or online services which allow you to view your statements directly from the company websites.

Unexpected Mail Arrives
Identity theft victims may also find unexpected mail in their letterboxes. You might receive bills for credit cards you didn’t open or new checks you didn’t order. Report these problems to the relevant financial providers and the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline as soon as possible.

You can prevent this problem from occurring with the services of a company experienced in stopping identity theft, such as LifeLock. This firm alerts you whenever your personal information is used to apply for retail credit, utilities, mortgage loans, or wireless services. If you ever become a victim of identity theft, the LifeLock team will also hire experts, investigators, and lawyers to tackle your case.

You’re Denied Credit
If you’re ever denied credit, make sure you ask for clear reasons for the refusal. United States law requires creditors to explain why any application is refused if you ask within 60 days. They’re also not permitted to give vague reasons either, so make sure you press them for specific causes. This will help you decide whether identity theft may be to blame.

Identity theft victims who are unaware of the crime for six months suffer four times the financial damages of the average victim, so it’s imperative that you look out for these key signs.


Photo: Flicker – elhombredenegro