Courtesy of  EarthWeb  

Expert Reveals How You Can Spot The Warning Signs Early And Keep Your Information Safe

Having your identity stolen is everyone’s worst nightmare. But how can you make sure that you stay vigilant about spotting signs of identity theft?

Trevor Cooke, the online privacy expert at EarthWeb, shares his top ten signs that someone has stolen your identity.

Unknown Charges Start Popping Up On Your Credit Card

This is a warning sign that you can spot quite quickly if you check your credit card app regularly. Look out for one or two small charges, sometimes just a few dollars, that don’t look familiar. Sometimes when hackers are testing out the validity of stolen credit card information, they will start small and then make big purchases once they see the small ones have gone through.

‘I recommend that you check your purchases at least once per day so that if there are inconsistencies, you will find them immediately,’ advises Trevor. ‘Even if the charge is small, if you do not recognize it, call your credit card company immediately and file a fraud report.’ 

Your Credit Score Changes Drastically

Maintaining a good credit score is essential for many important life decisions, from buying a house to getting a loan. If you get a notification that your credit score has dropped and you haven’t done anything to cause it, that is a huge red flag that someone has stolen your identity and is making large purchases that are affecting your credit score.

Along with checking your credit card purchases, you should also be checking your credit score and setting up credit score alerts so that you will be notified immediately if your score changes. Many credit card apps allow you to check your credit score for free while you’re in the app.

Statements From Unknown Credit Cards Arrive In Your Inbox

If you receive your credit card statements via email, then you probably get your monthly statement around the same time every month. ‘If you receive an email about a credit card statement at an abnormal time of the month, or if the statement is for a credit card that you do not own, you should immediately investigate the origin of the credit card and contact the provider to cancel it,’ says Trevor.

Your Login Credentials Stop Working On Important Accounts

There are hackers out there who spend all day trying out different passwords for credit card apps, social security accounts, and tax payment provider accounts, all with the hopes of getting access to those that have weak passwords. If you notice that suddenly you cannot get into your financial accounts, then you may be in the middle of an identity theft attempt.

‘The best way to prevent this kind of fraud from happening is to create elaborate passwords for all of your accounts and change your passwords regularly,’ encourages Trevor. Passwords that have a lot of random characters and words that cannot be linked back to you in any way are the least likely to be hacked.

You Start Receiving Emails Under A Different Name

Receiving any suspicious emails should be investigated, but if you are receiving emails wherein the sender addresses you by the wrong name, this is a big red flag that someone is using your email to do things under a false name. If you suspect that your email has been compromised, file a fraud report and work with your provider to create a better layer of security for your email. If nothing works, you may have to create a new email address and change your email on all of your different financial accounts that are linked to it. 

You Stop Receiving Your Regular Emails

Nowadays, most people receive their bills and other financial reports via email instead of being sent printed copies in the mail. If you expect certain emails about bills, credit score updates, bank account summaries, or anything else related to your finances and you notice that you haven’t received them as normal, someone may have hacked into your accounts. 

‘Make sure that you have a comprehensive list of all of your regular bill emails so that you can easily spot a discrepancy,’ advises Trevor. ‘The faster you realize you are missing information, the better chance you have of catching the identity thief before they go too far.’

The IRS Contacts You About Fraud

Receiving a phone call from the IRS is a scary thing, especially if you know that you have followed every rule and worked hard to have financial stability. If you receive a phone call like this and you know that you have done nothing wrong, you are likely having your identity stolen.

‘This is when the IRS becomes your most trusted ally,’ says Trevor. ‘The best thing you can do is follow their advice and take the steps needed to recover your identity from the thief.’ Although it’s not fun to think about, you should always be prepared for something like this to happen, so make sure to always keep a detailed account of all of your transactions and financial information so you can share it with the IRS if identity theft ever happens to you.

Denial Of Online Credit Card Applications

If you have been working hard to build up enough credit to apply for a new credit card but then you receive the news that you have been denied, it’s time to investigate your finances further. Check credit card statements, savings accounts, and any other financial records for abnormalities in spending and report them to the IRS with the claim that you believe your identity has been robbed.

Receiving Duplicate Bills 

Credit card bills, mortgage bills, car payments, and any other bills you receive every month should only come once unless they are late. If you suddenly get a car payment bill for a car you don’t own or an overdue credit card statement for a credit card that does not exist as far as you know, these are telltale signs of identity theft. ‘Any duplicate bills should be flagged and you should contact the respective companies immediately,’ warns Trevor. ‘Always act fast in these kinds of situations and never assume it was a mistake. In the digital age, bills are rarely sent by mistake as they are usually automated.’ 

Changes In Product Advertisements On Your Devices

It is well known by now that our phones and computers have some ability to track our purchases and place advertisements on our social media feeds that reflect our general interests. ‘Although this may be a subtle hint, if you notice advertisements for products that you would not normally purchase like luxury watches or fancy sports cars, then you may have had your identity stolen,’ says Trevor. ‘The advertisements on your devices may be your first sign that your identity has been stolen.’

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