How To Check If Someone Is Using Your Identity In 2023

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    Do You Suspect You’re the Victim of Identity Theft?

    When Jessica Roy’s wallet was stolen from a San Francisco bar, the criminals didn’t just take her credit card and cash — they stole her identity. Over the next few years, scammers used her identity to steal a Tesla, buy a new iPhone, and write bad checks totaling over $13,000 [*].

    Unfortunately, Jessica’s story is far from unique. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), reports of identity theft have more than doubled in the past two years, making it the fastest growing crime in America [*].

    Even worse, these are only the reported cases. A recent survey found that 47% of Americans had been victims of financial identity theft in the last two years [*].

    What makes identity theft so dangerous is that it can be hard to spot before it’s too late. 

    In this guide, we’ll show you how to check if someone is using your identity and what to do if you see the warning signs of identity theft. 

    How Does Identity Theft Happen?

    Identity theft happens whenever scammers or hackers use your personally identifiable information (PII) without your permission. This includes your name, address, phone number, Social Security number (SSN), and other sensitive data. 

    Fraudsters have found a nearly unlimited number of ways to get their hands on this information  — from phishing emails posing as government agencies to fake websites and scam phone calls. 

    But in many cases, they don’t even need to steal your personal information from you. In the past few years, data breaches at major companies have leaked billions of pieces of personal information to the Dark Web — including SSNs, email addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers.

    While most identity thieves are after financial information, scammers have evolved their schemes to target their victims in other ways, such as:

    • Medical identity theft: Scammers use your health information to steal your benefits, order medical equipment and prescription drugs, or receive care in your name. 
    • Tax identity theft: Fraudsters file taxes in your name in order to steal your refund. 
    • Criminal identity theft: Con artists use your identity during traffic stops or when arrested for crimes — putting your name on a police record (or worse). 
    • Account takeover fraud: Hackers break into your online accounts to steal your money, scam your friends and family on social media, or find sensitive information in your email inbox. 
    • Government benefits fraud: Bad actors use your PII to apply for government benefits, such as unemployment or COVID-19 relief funds. 
    • Employment identity theft: Scammers use your identity to apply for jobs they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get due to background checks or work eligibility issues.

    The numerous types of identity theft make it hard to always know if you’ve been a victim. So, how can you check if someone is using your identity? 

    How To Check If Someone Is Using Your Identity

    1. Look for unfamiliar activity on your credit report
    2. Check your health insurance records
    3. Review your tax return information
    4. Make sure you’re not locked out of sensitive online accounts
    5. Scrutinize spam emails, texts, and mail
    6. Check for missing physical mail or stolen trash 
    7. Ensure you’re not missing your ID, credit cards, or sensitive documents
    8. Check your “mySocial Security” account for signs of fraud
    9. Run a free Dark Web scan to look for leaked passwords
    10. Sign up for identity theft protection

    Left unnoticed for too long, identity theft can seriously damage your credit, financial security, and reputation. Follow these steps to see if someone is using your identity:

    1. Look for unfamiliar activity on your credit report and financial statements

    Most identity thieves are financially motivated. And one of the easiest ways for them to turn your sensitive information into cash is to apply for new loans (even mortgages and auto loans), credit cards, or accounts in your name. 

    There are two places where you can check for signs of financial identity theft: your credit report, and monthly statements for your bank accounts and credit cards. 

    Here’s what you should do:

    • Check your free annual credit report. Once a year, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — at Check your report for unauthorized new accounts and loans, incorrect information (such as your address or phone number), and hard inquiries that you didn’t request. 
    • Scrutinize your monthly credit card and bank statements for unfamiliar charges. A suspicious purchase could reveal that a scammer has stolen your credit card numbers and is using them to make fraudulent purchases. Don’t ignore small charges or withdrawals either, as scammers often start small to “verify” that your card or bank account details are valid. 
    • Consider signing up for credit monitoring. Identity Guard can monitor your credit file with all three credit reporting agencies — as well as monitor your bank, credit, investment, and 401k accounts for signs of fraud. Sign up now and save 33% on your Identity Guard membership

    Other signs to watch out for:

    • An increase in credit offers in the mail, by email, or over the phone. 
    • A sudden change in your credit score, which could be the result of scammers missing payments or maxing out your credit utilization score. 
    • Unexpected calls from debt collectors or being denied credit (for which you normally would be approved). 
    • Calls or notifications verifying unfamiliar purchases.

    If you notice any of these warning signs, you should freeze or lock your credit immediately. Then, report the fraud to the impacted financial institutions and companies. You may need to cancel your accounts and get new credit cards to ensure that the fraudulent activity doesn’t continue. 

    2. Check your health insurance records and benefits statements

    Medical identity theft can have serious consequences — and not just on your finances. 

    If scammers use your identity to receive medical care, it can be entered on your official records. In the worst case scenario, this could result in your receiving improper care or potentially dangerous medications based on a fraudulent medical history. 

    Here’s what you should do:

    • Thoroughly review all medical statements and explanations of benefits (EOB). Look at the services you’re being billed for and make sure you actually received them. Are the dates correct? Did you request these treatments or prescriptions? Is the contact information on your bill correct? Any of these can be red flags that your health information has been compromised.
    • See if your stolen health information is for sale on the Dark Web. Fraudulently obtained health information is 20–50x more valuable on the black market than other stolen data [*]. Unfortunately, a free Dark Web scanner most likely won’t be able to tell you if your medical identity has been compromised. Instead, you’ll want to opt for an identity theft protection service with Dark Web monitoring, like Identity Guard.

    Other signs to watch out for:

    • You’re denied health insurance coverage or are told you’ve used up all of your benefits (when you know you haven’t). 
    • You start to receive bills for unfamiliar medical procedures or equipment and drugs that you or your physician didn’t order. 
    • There’s inaccurate information in your medical history. 

    3. Review your tax return information

    Scammers commonly use your personal information to file fraudulent tax returns and steal from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The number of tax-related fraud cases increased by 91% last year, according to the IRS [*].

    If scammers use your information for tax purposes, your tax return will either be denied (because someone has already filed one in your name), or you’ll be told you’re being audited due to inconsistencies with your refund.  

    Here’s what you should do:

    • Check for unfamiliar tax documents. Scammers may not change your home address, meaning you could receive tax documents that you didn’t request. Be especially cautious if you receive a strange W-2, 1099, or tax transcript. 
    • Log in to your account and look at your refund status. You can check your tax records, what you owe, and the status of your tax refund online at Also, beware if you receive a notification for an account that you didn’t open. 
    • Thoroughly vet any tax preparer you’re working with. Fraudsters sometimes work as tax preparers and modify your returns to scam you out of your refund. If a tax preparer doesn’t sign your return or can’t explain discrepancies on your return, they could be a scammer. 

    Other signs to watch out for:

    • Watch out for notices from the IRS confirming transcripts, accounts, or Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) that you never requested. 
    • Check previous tax years to see if you are owing taxes, or if returns were made in your name. 

    Pro tip: Claim your account (if you haven’t already done so). This gives you an easy way to see if anyone else is trying to file taxes in your name. You’ll need photo identification to verify your identity. 

    4. Make sure you’re not locked out of sensitive online accounts

    These days, your online account credentials are more valuable to scammers than your SSN. With access to your email address, scammers can request password resets that allow them to access your bank or investment accounts, scam your friends and family, and find sensitive information and photos to use to blackmail you. 

    Even worse, your accounts could be compromised by no fault of your own. The average American has 150 online accounts — making everyone vulnerable to the thousands of data breaches that happen every year. 

    If you can’t access an online account or see signs that you’ve been hacked, there’s a good chance your identity has also been compromised.

    Here’s what you should do:

    • Audit your online accounts, and delete unused ones. The more accounts you have, the more likely you are to get hacked. Try to keep track of accounts you currently have, and delete old ones — especially e-commerce sites where you store your credit card information. 
    • Use a password manager. This tool not only securely stores all your passwords – it can also warn you if your accounts have been compromised or if you’re using a weak password that could easily be hacked. 

    Other signs to watch out for:

    • Look for signs that an account has been hacked — such as if it looks different than it usually does or if there are strange messages in your “sent” folder. 
    • Beware of suspicious login attempts or password resets and any two-factor authentication (2FA) code messages sent to your email or phone. 
    • Watch out for scammers on the phone, social media, or via text message asking for 2FA codes. No one — not even customer support agents — will ask for your passwords or 2FA codes. 

    💡 Related: Social Media Security Tips & Best Practices

    5. Scrutinize spam emails, texts, and mail

    The average American receives 31 spam calls and 20 spam texts per month [*] (not to mention their share of the hundreds of billions of spam emails sent every day). But while we’ve all come to accept spam as a part of our lives, these messages can often be a sign that someone is using your identity. 

    The number of monthly spam calls and texts received.
    The number of monthly spam calls and texts received. Source: Truecaller

    If scammers gain access to your personal information, they could use it to sign up for services, apply for new credit accounts, or open new online accounts. So, while a credit card offer in the mail might seem like junk mail, it could be a sign that you’re the victim of fraud. 

    Here’s what you should do:

    • Check the name and information on junk mail before throwing it away. Look for credit offers or new cards for accounts that you didn’t open. If in doubt, call the bank or financial institution and inquire about the account. 
    • Regularly check your spam folder for emails about accounts you don’t recognize. Spam filters do a great job of protecting your inbox, but they could also cause you to miss red flags indicating identity theft. Regularly check for messages about accounts you didn’t open — but never click on links in spam emails. These could infect your device with malware or send you to phishing sites. 

    Other signs to watch out for:

    • An increase in fake text messages and scam calls could mean that your phone number has made it onto a scammer’s list. 
    • Don’t ignore calls about offers or updates to accounts that you don’t recognize. These could be wrong numbers or marketing calls — or they could be signs that your identity was stolen. 

    💡 Related: What Happens if You Open a Phishing Email?

    6. Check for missing physical mail or stolen trash 

    Mail theft is still one of the most common ways that scammers gain access to your sensitive information. Credit card statements, payslips, or tax documents can give con artists everything they need to steal your identity. 

    Even worse, some fraudsters use a change-of-address scam to alter your address to one they control — rerouting your sensitive mail right to their doors. 

    Here’s what you should do:

    • Secure your mailbox and sign up for USPS informed delivery. Informed Delivery® is a free service that lets you preview your incoming mail each day and track letters and packages. This way, you’ll know if anything is missing. 
    • Shred documents before throwing them away. Shred anything that contains account numbers, your SSN, or even your full name, birth date, and phone number. 

    Other signs to watch out for:

    • You stop receiving mail or receive a change-of-address confirmation form in the mail. If you think this is the case, call your local post office to confirm your address.
    • Look for signs of tampering in, on, and around your mailbox and garbage bins.

    💡 Related: What Documents Do You Need To Shred (Besides Tax Documents)?

    7. Ensure you’re not missing your ID, credit cards, or sensitive documents

    A missing wallet, purse, or ID can quickly lead to identity theft. If you’re missing any government-issued ID (especially a driver’s license or passport), you are at high risk of identity fraud. 

    Here’s what you should do:

    • Keep a checklist of what cards you keep in your wallet or purse. A list will help you check if something is missing. Make sure you regularly go through your wallet or purse to see if anything is gone.
    • Don’t carry sensitive IDs, such as your Social Security card, with you. Keep your Social Security card, Medicare card, and extra credit cards at home in a secure place. The fewer cards you carry with you, the less chance there is of one going missing. 

    Other signs to watch out for:

    • Beware of “shoulder surfers” — scammers in public places who spy on you as you use your credit cards or other documents either in stores or online. 
    • Don’t use public Wi-Fi for banking, shopping, or entering passwords. Hackers can easily hack these networks and steal any data you input. 

    8. Check your “mySocial Security” account for signs of fraud

    If scammers steal your SSN, they can use it to apply for government benefits or get jobs for which they otherwise wouldn’t qualify. Unfortunately, finding out if someone is using your SSN isn’t easy. 

    Even worse, with the amount of information leaked in data breaches over the past few years, many cybersecurity experts warn that it’s almost guaranteed that your SSN is for sale on the Dark Web [*].

    Here’s what you should do: 

    • Sign up for a “mySocial Security” account. The Social Security administration’s free online service allows you to fill out online applications and estimate benefits. But it also will alert you if someone tries to open a duplicate account (using your SSN), logs in to your account, or tries to receive benefits in your name. 
    • Don’t give out your SSN over the phone. Scammers often call pretending to be from a government agency and ask you to “verify” your SSN. This is almost always a scam. 

    Other signs to watch out for:

    • Beware of any mail regarding an unemployment (or other) benefits claim that you didn’t make — especially if it’s from a different state. 
    • Look out for signs that someone has applied for benefits in your name, such as receiving an IRS form 1099-G reflecting benefits that you weren’t expecting to receive. 

    💡 Related: Facebook Messenger Scams: What Are They & How To Avoid Them

    9. Run a free Dark Web scan to look for leaked passwords

    These days, most scammers rely on leaked data on the Dark Web to run their scams. Fraudsters sell account passwords, bank account and credit card numbers, or even SSNs for as little $2 on the Dark Web [*].

    While there’s little you can do to remove your personal information from the Dark Web, knowing it’s been compromised can help you protect yourself against identity theft.

    Identity Guard free Dark Web scanner
    Use Identity Guard’s free Dark Web scanner to see what sensitive information scammers have access to.

    10. Use identity theft protection to scan for misuse of your information

    No matter how much time or energy you put in, it’s impossible to constantly check if someone is using your identity. That’s where identity theft protection services come in. 

    For a small monthly fee, services like Identity Guard will monitor your most sensitive information across public records and databases, websites, and the Dark Web. You’ll be alerted if anyone is using your PII, trying to access your credit history, or opening new accounts in your name. 

    With Identity Guard, you get: 

    • $1 million in identity theft insurance to cover eligible losses and costs associated with identity theft. 
    • 24/7 U.S.-based fraud resolution specialists who are ready to answer your questions via phone or email  and help you deal with the fallout of fraud. 
    • Award-winning identity theft protection that monitors your personal information online, in public records, and on the Dark Web. 
    Identity Guard reviews
    • Three-bureau credit monitoring with near real-time fraud alerts.
    • Bank account, 401k and investment account, and high-risk transaction monitoring to keep your personal finances and assets safe. 
    • Online and device safety features such as a secure password manager and safe browsing tools. 

    What To Do If You’re the Victim of Identity Theft

    1. Lock or freeze your credit file immediately. A credit freeze (or lock) prevents scammers from opening new accounts with lenders or taking out loans in your name. You should also take this opportunity to request a free credit report from the major credit bureaus to check for signs of fraud. 
    2. File an official identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at An FTC report is essential for disputing fraudulent transactions and proving you were the victim of identity theft. 
    3. Call your bank and other financial institutions. Talk to the fraud department and explain what happened. They’ll most likely close your accounts and cancel your debit and credit cards (and provide you with new ones). 
    4. Update your online accounts with new, unique, and secure passwords. Use a password manager to store your new passwords in a safe place so they’re always ready for you — but untouchable by scammers.  
    5. Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. This is an additional security measure that requires a special code or biometric authentication to access your accounts. Try to use an authenticator app instead of SMS for receiving your 2FA codes. 
    6. File a police report if you have information that could lead to an arrest. Bring all of your documentation (including your FTC report) when you speak with the police. If the crime took place in a different city or state, you’ll also need to file a police report with local law enforcement in the municipality where the crime took place. 
    7. Contact any other impacted government agencies, such as the IRS for tax fraud or the DMV if your driver’s license was stolen. If you were a victim of tax-related fraud, complete the Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039), or call 800-908-4490.
    8. Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you believe your Social Security number was compromised, contact their fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271, or submit a report online.
    9. Protect your devices and networks with a VPN and antivirus software. A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts your data so that hackers can’t spy on you, while antivirus stops scammers from infecting your devices with malware. 
    10. Consider identity theft protection. A credit monitoring service alone isn’t enough. You need a comprehensive identity theft protection service to ensure true peace of mind. 

    The Bottom Line: Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

    Identity theft has become the latest crime epidemic to sweep the nation. 

    Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to constantly look for all of the warning signs that indicate someone is using your identity. Instead, join the over 38 million people who have trusted Identity Guard to keep them safe from scammers and fraudsters. 

    Protect your identity from scammers. Save 33% on your Identity Guard membership today.

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers