Know the signs: How to tell if your identity is stolen
September 29, 2022
The idea of someone stealing your identity may sound like the plot of a bad film, but this type of crime is a growing problem. There were 226,000 cases of identity theft in the UK in 2021 alone.
With identity theft, the fact that someone is impersonating you online or in real life is often not the worst part. The worst part is often the consequences. They can start using your identity to commit fraud, access credit in your name, clean out your accounts, or severely damage your reputation.
Identity thieves can leave a trail of destruction behind them that is difficult to undo but what are the potentialwarning signs that your identity has been stolen?
1. You notice strange charges on your accounts
A simple form of identity theft is for someone to steal your credit or debit card details. It can happen if you fall victim to a phishing attack or malware. If you notice suspicious charges on your statement that you don’t recognise, call your bank at once. That’s why it’s important to regularly check your statements for any red flags.
2. You’re denied credit
If you’re denied a loan or overdraft application, it may be a sign that someone is using your personal details to obtain credit. They may be racking up debts in your name without your knowledge, which could seriously damage your credit score.
If you’re refused credit, follow up to ask if there’s any reason to be concerned. Another option is to check your credit score to look for anything unusual.
3. People ask you about your social media
If friends or family ask you about unusual activity on your social media account, be sure to investigate it. Your account may have been hacked. Criminals can also clone accounts using the information on an existing account to impersonate you. For individuals that rely on social media for business leads or sales, this can cause significant reputational damage.
One Northern Ireland entrepreneur had to endure multiple fake accounts using his name and images on Instagram, Facebook, Tinder and other dating sites. The scammers responsible were using the accounts to push Bitcoin scams to unsuspecting victims. James Blake warned others to be careful what information they share on social media but acknowledged that it can be an occupational hazard in some professions.
4. You’re contacted about accounts you don’t have
Have you received calls, letters or emails from lenders or service providers that you don’t use? Ironically, it can be easy to dismiss these as a scam. However, it could be that someone has opened an account in your name.
Contact the account provider directly if you receive correspondence related to an account you don’t have. They can tell you whether you need to be worried.
5. Official claims are made in your name
Other types of scams can include unemployment scams, where criminals use your details to claim welfare benefits. Tax identity theft is another scam where criminals file a tax return in your name and make off with your refund. If you receive an unexpected letter about a claim you didn’t make, it should be a red flag.
6. Medical services are accessed in your name
Criminals can even access medical services using your identity. One UK resident realised he was the victim of identity theft when he applied for a Covid vaccination. He was told he had already received it. Further investigation revealed that someone was using his identity to illegally stay in the country.
7. You find your details on the dark web
OK, most people aren’t going to trawl the dark web for signs that their identity has been stolen. But if you find out that your information was involved in a data breach, you can check if it’s ended up on the dark web. That’s where it can be bought or traded by cybercriminals. Dark web monitoring scans the dark web and lets you know if your information is found.
8. Contact from solicitors or debt collectors
One of the worst things about identity theft is you can be oblivious to the damage that’s being done in your name. You may not know about loans that have been issued in your name or fraud that’s been committed until you’re contacted by solicitors or even debt collectors.
Identity theft may be a scary thought but knowing the signs to look out for is almost as important as taking the necessary precautions to help protect yourself. Precaution is the best defence, but early detection can help you to limit the damage. However, it is also important to remember that no one can prevent all cybercrime or identity theft.
Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.
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