How Will I Know My Identity Has Been Stolen?

How Will I Know My Identity Has Been Stolen?

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Josh Smith
By: Josh Smith
Posted: May 10, 2018
Our popular “How-To” series is for those who seek to improve their subprime credit rating. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines.

Identity theft has become a serious concern over the past decade, as the US —  and much of the world — moves steadily toward a digital economy with a growing number of online transactions occurring each year. In fact, online consumer spending jumped by 16% in 2017 alone, to the tune of $453.46 billion.

Online transactions, while convenient, do leave consumers vulnerable to the possibility of a stolen identity. But if your identity does get stolen, how will you know? It’s not as if the thieves who have done so will call to alert you.

To help you spot trouble, we’ve put together some telltale signs your identity may have been compromised.

Unfamiliar New Accounts Show Up on Your Credit Reports

If you happen to get a credit report and see an unfamiliar account, this is the biggest sign of identity theft. A new account not only requires a credit check, but it also requires access to your Social Security number.

This could open you up to a host of other issues, including medical identity theft (where someone uses your insurance to get their own medical procedures).

Any unfamiliar account on your credit reports should immediately trigger you to file an identity theft report with the FTC and credit bureaus, as well as your local police department. You’ll also want to go over all of your financial accounts with a fine-toothed comb, and consider changing online passwords and obtain new credit and debit cards.

You should also diligently check your credit report until all unauthorized accounts have been removed and annually thereafter.

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You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major bureaus every year, which you can obtain through

While every American is entitled to one free credit report from each bureau every year, some companies offer consistent credit monitoring, which will alert you the second something changes on your credit report. If you are the type of person who likes to keep an eagle-eyed watch on your credit, you may already participate in such a program.

However, if you do a lot of online shopping, have a large social media presence, and are not currently using a credit monitoring service, now may be the time to do so, before someone gets their hands on valuable information about you.

There are Sudden Changes to Your Credit Score

For those who regularly check their credit scores, spotting a sudden change can be a warning sign that something is amiss with your credit, particularly if you haven’t changed any of your personal financial behaviors.

For example, a sudden increase in the amount of debt associated with your credit profile can cause a sharp decrease in your credit score. If you haven’t made any large purchases lately, that may be a sign of identity theft and you should check your credit reports for any new, unauthorized accounts.

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Collection Companies Come Calling

If you’ve always paid your bills on time, have excellent credit, and are a generally responsible person, you might not check your credit regularly enough to catch any sudden changes, so you may not notice something is wrong until you get an unexpected call from a collection agency.

If the account they’re calling about sounds foreign to you, check your credit report immediately to begin taking steps to resolving the issue. In many cases, these items can be resolved, but arguing with the collection agency isn’t the place to start. You should first file identify theft reports with the authorities to get the law on your side.

You Stop Receiving Mail

Most Americans hate junk mail. It’s a waste of paper, it’s never that helpful or relevant to your life, and it takes up space in your mailbox.

However, if you suddenly stop receiving mail altogether, you may wish you were still getting that junk mail. A sudden stop in mail delivery is a warning sign that your identity has likely been stolen, and that highly-coveted junk mail (and, obviously, your necessary mail) has been rerouted to another address.

If you stop getting your mail, request a credit report immediately. If the address listed on the report does not match your current or past addresses, then you may have an identity theft problem on your hands.

Unauthorized Charges Appear on Your Financial Statements

If you open your credit card billing statement one month and happen to notice some unfamiliar charges — or even just one — that should be a very obvious clue that something is wrong, particularly if the charges are for places you never shop.

For example, if you haven’t jogged a day in your life, but your credit card statement shows a large expenditure at, say, Nordictrak, you might want to call your credit card company right away.

Credit Card Customer Service Numbers

Many credit card companies can offer a certain amount of protection in the event of identity theft. For one, they’ll be able to immediately cancel your credit card, ensuring the thieves responsible cannot run up any more bogus charges.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to read your credit card agreement, which will inform you how your particular credit card company handles these types of situations. The Fair Credit Billing Act limits your liability in these situations, but some cards offer more additional protections than others.

You Get a Letter from the IRS

In general, the only time most Americans want to hear from the Internal Revenue Service is when receiving a tax refund. However, if your identity is stolen, you may get a letter from the IRS about unusual tax filings in your name, such as more than one return or income from an employer you never worked for or haven’t worked for in a long time.

If this happens, you’ll want to begin the resolution process immediately, which starts with — you guessed it — checking your credit report. After all, someone else is trying to cash in on your hard-earned tax return. You’ll also want to contact the IRS as soon as possible to inform them that your identity has been stolen.

Regular Credit Checks are Half the Battle

Identity theft is on the rise but companies are increasingly withholding information about data breaches, leaving consumers vulnerable. That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant about supervising your credit reports and scores, especially if you’ve made a lot of progress in repairing your credit.

There is good news, though: there are many resources available to those who do have their identity stolen in the form of identity theft nonprofit organizations, credit repair companies, individual debt counselors, government resources, and so much more.

Having your identity stolen doesn’t have to ruin all of the hard work you’ve put into building a strong credit portfolio, but it will take some work on your end to get it all resolved.