Protecting your personal information is vital to keeping yourself and your financial information safe. Unfortunately, identity theft is common and more common than most people realize.
About 13 million people in the US were victims of identity theft in 2019, according to a 2020 identity fraud investigation from research-based consultancy Javelin. Overall, identity theft cost people nearly $17 billion that year alone.
Identity theft is serious. Once scammers have your personal information, they can liquidate your bank account, charge your credit cards, open new utility bills and get medical treatment for your health insurance, according to the Federal Trade Commission. They can even file a tax return in your name and get your money back.
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Experts say it’s important to know the signs of identity theft in case it happens to you. Here’s what you need to know:
The main signs of identity theft
One of the biggest signs is that you’ll be seeing strange transactions crop up, computer security expert Graham Cluley, co-host of the Crushing Security podcast, Yahoo Life tells. “You may see unusual transactions in your bank accounts,” Cluley says. “You may receive email confirmations about products you didn’t purchase, credit cards you didn’t apply for that arrive in the mail, and claims for debt you don’t recognize.”
But there are also other warning signs that should be on your radar, Joseph Steinberg, advisor to cybersecurity and emerging technologies, tells Yahoo Life. Steinberg cites the following as red flags of identity theft:
You will receive reminders for unpaid driving licenses that you never received.
You see unknown bills on your credit report.
The IRS will bar you from filing federal taxes because it says you’ve already filed the year in question — when you didn’t.
You will receive confirmation of changes to your physical or email address that you have not requested.
You will receive either invoices, explanation of health insurance benefit overviews or dental insurance explanation of benefit overviews for care that you have not received.
You will be told that you have paid a maximum of a certain medical or dental benefit when you know that you have not.
Your mobile phone cuts out unexpectedly.
The police will show you an arrest warrant for a crime you didn’t commit.
What to do if you are a victim of identity theft?
“Notify law enforcement,” Steinberg says. Usually that means contacting your local police department. But you also want the tax authorities and report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Steinberg recommends freezing your credit report as well.
You can also contact your bank about suspicious charges, Cluley suggests — they should be able to investigate.
Identity theft does happen, but the good news is that there are things you can do to protect yourself — and prevent it from happening in the first place.
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