You know if someone steals your phone or wallet, but how do you check to see if someone stole your identity? If you’ve become a victim of identity theft, you may experience signs like credit card or bank account charges you didn’t make, bills from collection agencies, or an inaccurate entry on your credit report that could cause problems when applying for a job or mortgage.
Your Social Security number is the key to all your personal information, which is why identity thieves are always looking to steal it. If they obtain your Social Security number, they can use it to access your credit cards, bank accounts, and benefits. They can also use it to commit crimes, like robbery or fraud, or even get arrested in your name.
You can check for unauthorized Social Security number activity by checking your Social Security Administration account. The agency will provide advice for if you think your Social Security number has been compromised.
It is also important to monitor your financial statements on a regular basis. Any unauthorized transactions are a sign that your information has been stolen. Fraudsters often start with small transactions to test out their stolen information before making larger moves, so it is essential to review your account statements frequently.
Another common sign of identity theft is receiving strange medical bills from a doctor or clinic you have never visited. This is a result of synthetic identity theft, where fraudsters use your information along with other people’s to create a fake persona that is creditworthy. This can affect your health insurance premiums and interfere with getting medical care in the future.
You should also pay close attention to your physical mail. Thieves often target mailboxes, especially those that contain official documents or financial information. In 2022 alone, 49 million Americans had their mail stolen [*]. You should collect your mail as soon as it is delivered and be sure to check it closely for any suspicious or unusual items.
Unexpected or suspicious calls, text messages, or social media posts are also a sign that your identity may have been stolen. These can be a result of phishing or other online scams, or they can be a sign that a criminal has accessed your personal information to commit more serious acts of fraud.
You can place a fraud alert on your credit reports by calling any of the three major credit reporting agencies and asking to have one placed on your file. This will require businesses to verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name. It will last a year and can be renewed by you for up to seven years. You can also freeze your credit at all three bureaus, which will prevent anyone from opening any new accounts in your name. This will take a little more effort and time to resolve, but it can be worth the extra protection. You should also file a police report with your local authorities as soon as possible. You will need a copy of the report to request an extended fraud alert or a credit freeze with all three agencies.