In fact, Today Money reported that most people only find out that they have become a victim of id theft when their banks contact them about a situation.
“Surveys show nine out of 10 people don’t check their financial statements,” security expert Robert Siciliano told Today Money. “That’s irresponsible. You shouldn’t be waiting for a retailer to tell you there’s been a breach.”
Completely preventing identity theft may not be possible, but it’s certainly within our power to detect the crime sooner rather than later.
“The longer ID theft goes on, the more damage is done and the longer it takes the victim to recover from it,” said Eva Velasquez, president of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Here are some warning signs that can help you detect identity theft earlier:
- A collection company is calling you for debts you didn’t incur: Collection notices sent to you for charges you didn’t make could be a signal that a thief has used your name to make purchases using your credit. It’s always safest to find out right away whether it was a simple mistake on the part of the collectors, or whether your identity has been stolen.
- Merchandise arrives at your home that you didn’t order: Hackers may have gained access to your online shopping accounts and forgotten to change the default shipping address. Call the retailer to have the product returned, change your passwords and get a replacement credit card.
- You get a new credit card in the mail that you didn’t apply for: This could mean that an identity thief applied for a card in your name and was unable to intercept it or get it sent to a new address. Contact the company to find out exactly what happened.
- You notice you’re not receiving mail: Thieves sometimes file change of address forms so they receive your bank statements instead of you. They hope this will stop you from noticing the crime for as long as possible. If your monthly statements are late, it might be a good time to check in with your bank and other creditors.
- Your application for a new credit line has been unexpectedly denied: It’s important to check your credit report regularly so you can see if incorrect information appears on your report. These could be warning signs that somebody has your information.
- Your credit card is declined: This is often the first sign that someone has gotten into your accounts. Call your issuer to determine what happened and whether or not you need to take further action.
- You receive statements for new credit card accounts: If criminals gain access to identifying data, like your Social Security number, birthday or bank account information, they may be able to open a new line of credit in your name. If you receive bills from an account you didn’t set up, call the institution to start an investigation.
- You see a strange charge on your bank statement: Don’t ignore even a small transaction on your credit or debit card statement that you don’t recognize. Thieves sometimes make small purchases first to see whether or not you’re paying attention. If nothing happens, then they’ll start going for the big ticket items. Call your bank immediately if you see a charge that shouldn’t be there.
Finally, consider registering for credit monitoring services that can alert you to certain kinds of activities that may indicate fraud.