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ID Theft

15 signs that your identity has been stolen

August 11, 2022

We hear a lot about identity theft and the dangers it poses for us all. No wonder. A recent online survey found that nearly three in ten UK adults report ever experiencing identity theft.1 If you’re worried about your data security, there are signs of identity theft to watch out for.

What is identity Theft? 

To put it simply, identity theft is when someone steals your personal information and uses it to open new accounts, obtain credit or loans, file fake tax information, rent or buy properties and pay for goods and services. They steal your identity and leave you with the bills.

There are many ways people can fall victim to identity theft. The most common is a data breach when a cybercriminal hacks into a company’s database and steals the personal information it stores about customers. The most popular industries for data breaches are healthcare, retail, financial and the government. These types of data breaches are very common because they give cybercriminals access to massive amounts of personal information from hundreds to millions of people in one fell swoop.

On a smaller scale, scams such as phishing are very popular as a means to trick people into divulging sensitive information, either by providing it themselves or by installing malware that automatically steals data from their computer.

Common signs that your identity has been stolen

There are several things to look out for if you want to help prevent identity theft or to discover if you may have fallen victim to it. The good news is that they are not hard to do and only require some extra vigilance and a little bit of your time.

  1. Unusual activity on your phone – If your phone loses service for an extended period when you would normally expect it to be working normally, you should check your account for unusual activity. The phone could have lost service because an identity thief has upgraded a phone using your account.
  2. Issues signing into accounts – If you try to sign into a website, you are usually automatically signed into, but it asks you to re-enter your password, this could be a cause for concern. If you enter your password but it is not recognised, you could be locked out of the account. It is likely someone has hacked your account and changed the password. You should try all the available password recovery options and contact customer support. 
  3. You receive a notification that your account might be compromised – If you are notified your data has been compromised due to a data breach after online shopping, you need to act quickly to help protect your information from being used to commit fraud.
  4. Post arrives for accounts you never opened – You might receive mail for a credit card or bank account that you never opened. Don’t ignore it. You should always contact the companies involved. This may not happen to everyone because identity thieves often change the address of the cards and accounts they open.
  5. Unexpected bills in your inbox – If you receive bills in your email account that you don’t recognise, don’t just delete them. Someone could be using your identity to run up accounts with businesses and shops. Notices for overdue payments could also signal identity theft.
  6. Advertisements for luxury and expensive items – if you start receiving ads for expensive goods, such as fancy cars or luxury accessories, it could be a sign that someone is using your identity to buy big-budget items using your credit card.
  7. Contact by debt collectors – Calls from debt collection agencies out of the blue may occur because an identity thief has run up thousands of pounds of debt using your name. This often happens if your credit card has been stolen, your bank account has been hacked, or if you lose your wallet/handbag and a criminal gets hold of it. 
  8. Duplicate benefits – If you apply for state payments and are refused because you are told you are already claiming, it may the case that someone has already applied in your name and is taking the money.
  9. Losing your ID/information – if you lose your wallet or handbag, you need to act quickly to shut down access to accounts and cancel personal information and forms of ID. Bank cards, credit cards and ID documents are a passport for identity thieves to steal your money and abuse your identity to access other funds.
  10. Unfamiliar credit card charges – It pays to check your credit card statements closely and verify all transactions. Criminals often use a minor test purchase to check whether your credit card account is vulnerable. If you find suspect transactions, you should report them to the credit card company before the identity thieves have a chance to make a much bigger purchase. Get the company to send you a new card.
  11. Unfamiliar bank charges and withdrawals – In a similar vein, you should check every transaction in your bank statement. Any unfamiliar transaction, however minor, needs to be scrutinised. If you notice any strange or unusual purchases, you should contact your bank.
  12. Utility service is cut off – You could be a victim of identity theft if a utility cuts off its service unexpectedly. You should contact your provider immediately and verify your information to resolve any surprise service interruptions. Identity thieves may have hijacked your account and redirected mail and bills to a different address.
  13. You get a two-factor authentication (2FA) alert – If you receive a text message from an online service containing a verification code that you didn’t request, you should change your password straightaway. It’s very likely that someone is trying to access your account.
  14. Authentication messages for an unfamiliar account – If you receive a verification text or email for an account you did not open, it is possible someone is using your email to open new accounts with your identity. You should never click on links or verify accounts that you didn’t set up yourself. Change the password on your email account, enable two-factor authentication, and monitor the account for suspicious alerts.
  15. Unexpected credit rejection– If your application for a loan or credit is denied it could suggest someone has been abusing your credit. You should act immediately and contact the relevant merchants and financial institutions as quickly as possible.

How can we avoid identity theft

As we have seen, identity theft is a serious problem and there are many routes for wrongdoers who are intent on abusing your personal information to commit fraud. But there is no cause for needless alarm or panic. In many instances, identity theft can be detected, reported, and minimised with a little extra vigilance and scrutiny on your behalf. Identity theft works when the victim is unaware that his or her details have been stolen and are being misused. Detection, awareness and reporting of suspicious activity are the simplest ways to combat the threat posed by identity theft.

Based on an online survey of 1,001 adults in the UK by The Harris Poll on behalf of NortonLifeLock, December 2021.


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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