Identity theft (or identity fraud within law enforcement) is any crime against a person where financial or personal data is obtained illegally. Normally, financial gain is the main goal of identity theft. There are many types of identity theft, although credit card, bank, utility, and phone fraud are the most common throughout the United States.
Once your information is taken, the thief can withdraw funds from your bank account, apply for or access your credit card information, steal your tax refund by using your SSN, and obtain medical care through your insurance.
The easiest way to prevent identity theft is by using an online service like CheckPeople. Background checks compile information from a variety of sources and can highlight any changes or discrepancies in your accounts.
Here are 4 common signs of identity theft and how a website like CheckPeople can help minimize the risk:
- Your Accounts Have Unrecognized TransactionsIf your monthly bank or credit statements have unauthorized transactions or purchases you didn’t make, they may have been compromised. Contact the bank immediately to report the account and freeze the accounts as soon as possible. Many financial institutions offer a dispute service for these charges, helping you reverse the charges.
Using a background check service can help you monitor any changes or updates to addresses, phone numbers, or changes to personal information. Most thieves will attempt to update the address or phone number to their own (or a burner account) to prevent you from tracking the charges.
If you’ve noticed any updates recently, contact your financial institutions to confirm your account security.
- Receiving Loan or Credit DenialsMaintaining a good credit history is important to many people, and that’s exactly what a thief is looking to obtain. Good credit makes it easy to open new accounts fraudulently, especially credit card debt.
If you’ve recently applied for a new loan or credit card and have been denied, there’s a chance your identity has been compromised. The same holds for high-interest account approval. Suddenly paying high-interest rates indicates financial institutions see you as a high-risk individual.
Background checks can often include pulling a credit report with the file. This means you’ll be able to verify any accounts and financial services for accuracy and validity.
Finding any accounts you did not open suggests identity theft has occurred. Contact these institutions immediately to have them frozen or closed.
- Breached or Leaked Account SecurityMany identity thieves are hoping for easy access to your information, especially your online accounts. The easiest access point to collect personal details is through unprotected accounts online. Users who keep the same password for multiple accounts, use their birthday or name as the password, or keep the sequence identical are at higher risk of fraudulent activity.
Using the monthly subscription services like CheckPeople can help you monitor social media activity over an extended period. Make sure that every account has a unique password that is not connected to another account. For additional security, enable two-step authentication on all accounts whenever possible.
- Exposing Confidential Information
Although online access to personal information is a growing concern, paper documents with your personal information can still be used for identity theft. It is always a good idea to destroy any bank statements, credit card accounts, or private records before throwing them in the trash. Running these physical copies through a paper shredder is the easiest away to minimize this risk.Finally, make sure to delete any cookies, history, and passwords from shared computers. This is particularly important when using a device in a public domain (like school, work, or library computers).
Always close out the browser and reopen a new one before deleting the history, and never access sensitive information, if possible.
Online monitoring services can help you quickly react to any signs of identity theft, especially if you catch it early. Staying alert for new accounts, updated information, or social media updates that don’t match your activities is the best protection you have.
Thieves are looking for easy, unprepared, and vulnerable people to victimize. Prevention is the first step in halting identity theft, wherever possible. Remaining proactive when you see compromised accounts is the second step to minimizing damage to your financial and personal information if you’ve been attacked.