Nearly 17 million people were victimized by identity thieves in 2012 according to the US Justice Department, including 40% who were victimized through their credit cards and 37% through their bank accounts. It’s estimated that the cost was nearly $25 billion in not only direct but indirect losses as well.
Unfortunately, most people have no idea they’ve been the victim of an identity thief until their financial institution contacts them but, experts say that it’s not a good idea to rely on your credit card or bank to catch this problem and that, in order to be safer, consumers must take proactive steps to protect themselves. That’s why it’s so important to read today’s blog because we’re going to help you look for signs that your personal information has been stolen by identity thieves.
Incredibly, recent surveys show that almost 90% of consumers don’t check their financial statements, something that experts believe is highly irresponsible. The fact is, waiting for your bank, credit card or retailer to tell you that something’s wrong means it’s already too late. Unfortunately, most people check their Facebook status more than a check their financial statements.
One sign that you’ve been victimized is that a bill for goods or services appears on your statement that you didn’t make, even something very small. Many cyber and identity thieves will do a “test” first to see if your card works and, if it does, they will then start making even bigger purchases. No matter how small a charge might be, make sure you check it out completely.
If a statement appears in your mailbox for an unknown credit card account, you’ve probably been victimized by an identity thief who has applied for a credit card in your name and gone shopping before you caught them and closed that account. If a credit card that you never applied for shows up in your mail, don’t simply assume that it’s been a mistake, contact that credit card company right away.
The same thing goes if you start getting calls from debt collectors or collection notices, something that could signal that an identity thief has been using your personal information, purchasing things, and then of course not paying for them. If you have “good” credit and you apply for a new credit card but are denied, it might mean that an identity thief has damaged your credit and ruined your credit score.
Sometimes it won’t be a new or unknown bill that comes, it will be a normal bill that stops coming. If you’re monthly statement suddenly stops arriving in your mailbox, it could mean that an identity thief has filed a change of address in order to keep that statement from arriving and alerting you to his or her criminal activity.
If you log on to the Identity Theft Resource Center online, you’ll find a full list of ID Theft Red Flags that will give you more information about how to spot identity thieves and make sure that they don’t ruin not just your credit or your credit score but your financial health as well. A few minutes of your time doing that, and checking your monthly statements as well as your credit reports, could save you a mountain of headaches and a lot of money.