Identity thieves can find a way to use your information to commit many types of fraud. Identity thieves can use your information to drain your bank account or run up credit card bills, get medical treatment on your insurance, or get a driver’s license in your name. Everyone who has a Social Security number is a potential victim of identity theft.
In the event that you’re a victim of identity theft, it could end up costing you thousands of dollars, and you will likely spend hundreds of hours trying to resolve the issue. Experts all agree that early detection of identity theft can significantly reduce the damage done by frauds.
1. Don't ignore odd problems with your web accounts
Identity thieves often start small. If one username and password has been exposed in a breach, they might try logging in to multiple other services with the same details, just to see what works. Often there's no sign they've done this, but sometimes there are indicators that something is wrong.
You might get an email saying your account has been accessed from a new device or location, for instance. Your web dashboard could have a 'last logged in' date you don't recognize. If a web service says you mustn't share your login details, it might close your account if it detects you and the hacker trying to log in at the same time.
2. Check your bank account and credit card statements
Monitor all your bank and credit card statements regularly. That might sound tedious, but as you get familiar with your regular spending, you'll find it easy to quickly scan through the payments and spot anything out of the ordinary.
Look out for transactions you don't recall making or amounts that seem unusual. Even tiny payments might be a sign of trouble, as they could indicate an attacker making test purchases to see if they're successful.
If you find a vendor name you don't recognize, search recent emails for possible clues. You might think you've just spent £100 on a plan with AmazingVPN.com, but maybe its payments are taken by BigHoldingCompany.com, and that's the name you'll see on any statements. Checking email receipts should tell you more.
3. Run a free credit report
The major credit reporting companies, including Experian and Equifax, offer free credit checks,. Financial experts recommend that you run a credit report every four months, however, so you may have to incur some fees to protect yourself from threats – but you might consider it a small price to pay compared to the inconvenience and loss it could save you.
4. Pay attention to your email and post
If you're the type of person who pays all of their bills online, relying on digital reminders to let you know when a payment is due, you might be quick to toss any physical bills you receive in the trash. Likewise, it's common to write off your bills as junk mail when they’re sitting in your inbox. If that's your routine, change it. Be conscious of the emails and physical bills that you receive and, more importantly, those you don’t receive.
If someone steals your identity you might start seeing a lot less mail – email or otherwise – because the thief is having it delivered to a different address. There's a lot to lose when someone gets hold of your mail, so make sure you get in touch with anyone you should be getting mail from, but aren't, and verify your addresses, both residential and email.
Furthermore, if you start receiving mail that doesn't belong to you, that could also be an early warning sign of fraud. Perhaps the identity thief wasn’t so clever when applying for a credit card in your name, leading to mail showing up that was intended for a fictionalized version of you rather than the actual you. This should raise some concerns, which you should be able to resolve by reporting it to the credit card company that it came from.
Identity Theft Protection - At a Glance
Comprehensive ID theft protection with some unusual extras. IdentityForce Inc. is a Massachusetts-based corporation that provides identity theft services for individuals, businesses, and government agencies.
Protection starts with access to credit reports from the top three agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Web access, iOS, and Android apps enable checking your details at any time.
A comprehensive monitoring network offers near real-time alerts for issues including searches on your credit report, changes of address, accounts being opened in your name, fraudulent use of your social security number, your details appearing in court records or on the sex offender register, and your data being sold on the dark web. If a problem is found you'll be speedily alerted via SMS and email.
There are some interesting bonus features. PC-based anti-phishing and anti-keylogger software tries to keep malware at bay and prevent hackers from stealing your data, while a Social Media Identity Monitoring suite scans your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Google+ streams for malicious links, hacked and imposter accounts, and more.
Norton's powerful ID theft protection all-rounder. Norton LifeLock provides in-depth monitoring of credit and loan applications, court and criminal records, USPS change of address requests, and any data exposed on more than 10,000 websites, looking out for any signs of others using your details.
If a potential issue crops up, smartly designed mobile apps give you alerts of what's going on. Should someone apply for an auto loan in your name, for instance, you don't just get to hear about it a few days later when your credit report updates: instead, the app sends you an immediate notification asking if this application was yours. Say no and Norton LifeLock's support team jumps into action to investigate.
If a thief manages to bypass your defenses anyway, Norton LifeLock's ID recovery specialists will help you get your life back. Unlike some services, that doesn't mean they'll advise you who to call – they'll do the heavy lifting for you, making those calls, filling in forms, and more.
Quick and easy protection for beginners. One of the biggest names in consumer credit reporting, Experian now maintains information on more than a billion businesses and individuals worldwide.
The company's IdentityWorks is a capable service, offering access to their credit report and score, raising alerts when there are any significant changes, and keeping a careful eye on the dark web for any signs of the user’s personal data.
You don't have to be a financial geek to understand what's on offer, as Experian has gone to unusual lengths to make everything accessible and clear. While just about everyone claims they can show you your credit report, for instance, the Experian site offers a sample report to show you exactly what you'll get.
If you do sign up, you'll discover a straightforward web console that presents your details in as simple a way as possible, although experts can drill down to payment histories and other details in a few clicks.