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You’ve saved up for years to buy your first home, and you’ve found the perfect new home. You couldn’t be more excited — until the floor drops out from under you. Your loan application is denied. But why? You’ve paid all your bills on time and established a good credit history. Come to find out, your credit report is far from stellar — and not from your own doing. This is what identity theft can look like, and it can blind side anyone at any time. The good news is that there are warning signs you may not be aware of that will help you know if someone has stolen your identity. And, even better, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
What is Identity Theft?
There are several different types of identity theft you should be aware of. Each type can harm you in different ways, but it’s important to know what happens when your identity is stolen and how it negatively affects your life.
Financial Identity Theft
If someone steals your driver’s license, social security number or hacks similar personal information online, they can use that information to open bank and checking accounts, apply for loans or credit cards, purchase cars, homes, etc. all in your name. They could also access your social security benefits, claim welfare and HUD benefits and obtain a false passport. You could even find your bank accounts and any other financial holdings drained.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical ID thieves use your medical information to have surgeries or other medical procedures, racking up thousands in hospital and doctor’s bills in your name. Someone with your medical information can also file false workers’ compensation claims and false medical liability or disability claims.
Criminal or Character Identity Theft
Identity thieves also can commit crimes posing as you, and you’ll end up having a criminal record that you’re completely unaware of. This can keep you from getting a job, or even getting arrested for crimes you didn’t commit. It’s then your responsibility to clear your name with the authorities and the court.
What Are the Warning Signs of Identity Theft?
Experts agree that there are some major signs to look for to know if someone stole your identity. If you notice any of these signs, or anything else that seems questionable, don’t brush it off. Click here to learn more about reporting identity theft. It’s the old saying, better to be safe than sorry.
- Charges appear on your credit or debit card statements that you didn’t purchase. Even small charges could be a red flag.
- You receive an unknown credit card statement or a new card in the mail that you didn’t apply for.
- Your bank account funds are dwindling without your knowledge of withdrawals.
- You’re not receiving your bills or other mail.
- When you write checks, merchants deny them.
- You’re getting collection notices or calls for debt that you haven’t incurred.
- There are errors on your credit report.
- Your credit history is good, but you’re denied for a loan or credit card when you apply.
- You’re receiving medical bills for unknown services.
- Your medical claim is denied by your health plan, even though you haven’t surpassed your benefits limit.
- You get a notification from the IRS that an additional tax return was filed in your name.
- The IRS notifies you that you have income from an employer you’ve never worked for.
Why Should You Care About Identity Theft?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) takes identity theft extremely seriously and has launched its own identity theft website. They are committed to making U.S. citizens aware of the realities of ID theft. The following FTC video is an excellent reminder of why you should take identity theft seriously.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?
Your best bet to protect yourself from identity theft is to follow our basic cyber awareness advice and subscribe to an identity theft protection service, like Identity Guard or IdentityForce. The best services monitor your credit reports, social security number, driver’s license, public records and more and alert you immediately if there’s anything questionable going on with your personal information. Some even provide you software to help you protect your online presence against identity theft. Please refer to our article, Best Identity Protection: CSID vs Lifelock vs Identity Guard, for our top choices and reviews of the most popular identity protection services. And if you’re more concerned with your financial situation, check out our article about credit monitoring service (coming soon).
If your identity was stolen, how did you find out?