In 2012, 12.6 million adults were victims of identity theft, up from 11.6 million victims in 2011, according to Javelin Strategy & Research's 2013 study.
One of the biggest problems with identity theft is the cost to consumers both in time and money. Javelin's study showed that the average fraud victim spent $365 trying to clear their name of identity theft.
Early detection is always key when it comes to fighting identity theft. The sooner you find out about a theft occurrence, the sooner you can take steps to prevent further damage. Learn to recognize the signs of identity theft so you can respond quickly.
1. You get collection calls about accounts you never opened.
Often calls from debt collectors are the first sign of identity theft. By the time debt collectors start calling you, accounts have often been open for several months. If you get a call, let the collection agency know this debt isn’t yours. Get a copy of your credit report to see if other accounts have been opened in your name and place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report.
2. Your credit report contains an account you didn't open.
If you notice an erroneous account on your credit report, don’t assume it’s a mistake made by the credit bureau or the credit card issuer. It’s quite possibly a sign of identity theft. Use the credit report dispute process to get the account removed from your credit report.
3. You are unexpectedly denied for a credit card, loan, or other service.
You’re entitled to a free credit report
anytime an application is denied because of your credit history. Take advantage of this free credit report to figure out whether you’ve become a victim of identity theft. You only have 60 days to order this free credit report, so act quickly.
4. Your credit report contain inquiries from businesses you don't recognize.
Credit reports contain both soft inquiries
, which are often made for promotional purposes, and hard inquiries
, which result from applications made by you or an identity thief. Unfamiliar hard inquiries are a sign of identity theft, so keep watching your credit report to see if any fraudulent accounts appear.
5. Your credit card bills suddenly stop coming.Thieves can use change of address forms to reroute your mail to another address. If your credit card statements suddenly stop coming, call your credit card issuer to confirm your statements are being mailed to the correct address. Then, take extra steps to ensure your mailbox is secure so mail can’t be stolen from your mailbox.
6. Your credit card is missing.
Report a lost or stolen credit card
to your credit card issuer as soon as you notice it’s missing. Many credit card issuers have $0 fraud liability protection plans that keep you from paying up to $50 of any fraudulent charges
that have been made on your credit card.
7. You get bills for accounts you never opened.If you receive a credit card statement that has your name on it, but for a credit card you didn’t open, contact the credit card’s customer service immediately. Let them know you didn’t open the credit card and that you suspect you this is a sign of identity theft. You should also check your credit report for other fraudulent accounts.