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Identity theft is stressful and can wreak havoc on your finances. It is important to recognize the signs early. The sooner you notice something is wrong, the faster you can take action to minimize the damage. BBB recommends the following tips to help you recognize the signs of identity theft as soon as possible.
Common signs of identity theft
- You receive statements or invoices in the mail for accounts you never opened. If you receive an invoice for an account you haven’t authorized, someone may have got hold of your personal information and opened an account in your name. Contact the company immediately to find out if there was an error and check your credit report for unusual activity.
- You are surprised to find yourself refused a loan or credit. You might think you have great credit, but if you apply for a credit card or loan and are shocked to find that you’ve been rejected, you could be a victim of identity theft. Thieves can open accounts in your name, drive up the bill, then default on payments, ruining your credit before you know what they’ve done. Check your credit report several times a year to make sure no one has opened a credit account in your name.
- Your usual invoices no longer appear in the mail. If you haven’t signed up for paperless and your invoices are no longer showing in the mail, it may be a sign that someone has changed your billing address. Contact your creditors and ask if they sent the invoice and if the address they have on file is correct.
- You notice suspicious activity on your bank account. Unknown fees, new accounts, and withdrawals you haven’t made are all signs of identity theft. Check your bank account regularly to make sure no one has access to your funds.
- You notice suspicious charges on your credit card. Scammers may charge a small amount into your account first to test their information, hoping you won’t notice. If you notice any strange charges on your credit card bill, report them immediately. Even a small inconsistency can be a sign of fraud.
- You receive authentication messages for accounts that you have not configured. Scammers might try to create a new account in your name. If you receive unexpected authentication messages, do not respond. Examine your bank accounts, credit card statements, and credit report to make sure no one has successfully completed transactions on your behalf.
- The IRS rejects your tax return. If your tax return is rejected, someone may have filed in your name and stolen your tax refund. Contact the IRS if you believe your tax identity has been compromised.
- The IRS informs you that a tax return has been filed on your behalf. Sometimes the IRS catches a fraudulent tax return before the bogus filer manages to get your return. When this happens, you may receive a letter from the IRS with instructions on how you can verify your identity and prevent identity thieves from using your Social Security number for tax evasion in the future.
- Your credit score inexplicably improves or deteriorates. If your credit score is suddenly very low, a fraudster may have maximized your credit without paying the bill. On the other hand, if your credit improves when you haven’t done anything to earn it, an identity thief can build up your credit so they can browse it later.
- You are suddenly denied medical coverage. Scammers can steal your identity to use your health benefits as well. If you receive medical bills in the mail, but have not been to the doctor, someone may be using your benefits on your behalf. The same is true if you are unexpectedly denied coverage. Contact your insurance company to find out if you’ve been the victim of medical identity theft.
- Debt collectors call for debts you ignore. If you receive calls from collection agents about money owed on your behalf for charges you never made, someone may be using your personal information. In some cases, crooks may even use your child’s name or Social Security number to accumulate debt. Get as much information as possible from the debt collector so that you can investigate the alleged charges and take action to correct the problem.
For more information
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov to report the problem and get a personalized recovery plan.
To learn more about protecting your child’s identity, read BBB Tip: Prevent Child Identity Theft.
Report scams to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
For more information or other inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers can also find more information on how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
ABOUT BBB: For over 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has helped people find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. In 2020, people turned to BBB more than 220 million times for BBB company profiles on 6.2 million companies and charitable reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free on BBB. org. There are local and independent BBBs in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin, which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.