Last year, there were an estimated 12.6 million victims of identity theft, a number that has grown steadily over the years. If someone steals your identity and uses it to commit fraud, the sooner you catch the problem, the sooner you can work to resolve it.
So here are some signs that you might be a victim of identity theft:
- Your bank account has withdrawals that you do not recognize.
- Mysterious charges appear on your bills and statements (especially credit card bills or cell phone bills).
- You get disruptive phone calls from debt collectors trying to collect on bills that you don’t recognize.
- You receive “final notice” bills in the mail for products or services you’ve never bought.
- Your credit report lists an address that you’ve never lived at.
- Your credit report lists credit accounts (such as a credit card or loan) that you’ve never applied for.
These are just some of the many ways that identity theft reveals itself. You may experience a few or several of these, depending on the severity of the situation.
So how can you help protect yourself from identity theft? Here are some tips to help:
- Keep your personal information securely locked away, even in your own home.
- Shred all finance-related documents that you discard.
- Do not share your credit information (such as your credit card or PIN) with anyone else. Even if you trust the person, do not share the information (especially through email or text).
- Review all bills and statements regularly and match up each charge with a receipt to ensure that you are familiar with the item listed on the bill.
- Pull your credit reports regularly. You’re entitled, by law, to your free credit reports once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Check for accuracy, and especially keep an eye out for accounts that you do not own.
- Monitor your credit scores regularly, because a drop in your scores could indicate a problem. There are free tools that allow you to see your credit scores, including Credit.com’s Credit Report Card which updates your credit scores, along with an overview of your credit profile, every month.
It’s easy to overlook the threat of identity theft, but the threat is very real. The costs are high; the hassles are high. Yet you can lessen your risk and the potential for damage to your identity by following these simple tips.
Don’t become a victim. Be proactive and watchful over your credit because your credit is a key asset that can positively impact your life.
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