Identity Theft: Warning Signs and Prevention Tips
Have You Been a Victim of Identity Theft?
With the holidays approaching, most people are starting to focus more on their shopping lists and menu planning than their overall financial picture. But, as always, it is important to never let your guard down especially during a busy shopping season!
Know some warning signs that there might be something going on behind the scenes. Identity theft is a very real thing and probably more common than most people would expect. We have compiled a list of red flags to be aware of that might mean someone has your personal information.
A common trend among identity thieves is to withdraw small amounts of money from a large number of people rather than trying to withdraw larger amounts from a just a few. So, instead of withdrawing $100’s or $1,000’s, they pull $2.00 or $3.00 at a time – even as low as 7 cents here and there. Since most people don’t notice these small amounts missing from their balances, the thieves can get away with it for longer periods of time. Check your account statements often and look for any unverified withdrawals.
Not Receiving Bills & Statements
If you notice a few of your bills or account statements have not arrived in the mail as usual, this could be a sign of identity theft. Thieves have been known to steal these items out of mailboxes in order to obtain your personal information and set up accounts for themselves under your name. If you do notice bills or statements missing, start by checking with the company to see if there has been any new activity on your accounts. Enrolling in eStatements will also help you avoid possible mail fraud.
While more common around tax season, identity thieves often try to file false tax returns in your name. If you receive a notice from the IRS about your return (or a return you supposedly filed), contact the IRS directly via www.irs.gov.
NOTE: The IRS will never call you about issues on your account. They will only send you notices in the mail. If you receive a phone call from the IRS, this is most likely another identity theft scam. If you are unsure, hang up and call the IRS back directly from their phone number listed on www.irs.gov.
Calls from Debt Collectors
If you begin receiving calls from debt collectors on accounts you did not open, this could be a sign someone has stolen your credit information. While you may not like to talk to these collectors, it is important to find out what company and account they are contacting you about. This way you can know if any false accounts were opened under your name.
NOTE: Do not give out any personal information to collectors for accounts you are unsure about. First, verify the company is a legit business. Second, obtain a copy of your credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com to verify the wrongly opened accounts.
Your Information is breached
Unfortunately, even if you do everything possible to prevent identity theft, there is still a chance that your data could be compromised. There have been several major data breaches of large companies and credit bureaus over the past several years. If you’ve been notified of a data breach by a company associated with your accounts, it’s important to be proactive. Follow any recommendations from the organization to protect yourself. Oftentimes they will provide free credit monitoring to those affected.
How to Protect Yourself:
Never Share Personal Information
Thieves are always coming up with new, and strategic ways of obtaining your personal information. Beware of any phone calls, texts, emails or social media messages where someone is asking for information such as your account number, social security number or address. Creditors will never ask for this information through these communication channels.
Check Your Credit Report Regularly
Being proactive is the best way to protect yourself from identity theft. Each year you are able to pull one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. It’s important to check your credit report on a regular basis in order to catch any identity theft signs early. To get your free credit report, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
NOTE: Unlike websites and apps that provide you with your current credit score, at www.AnnualCreditReport.com you will receive your full credit report. This will detail all accounts in your name; making it easier to identify possible fraud.
By Campus USA at 15 Nov 2019, 09:14 AM