Despite significant advances in security technologies and general awareness of cybercrime, the number of identity theft cases continues to grow. According to credit scoring specialist Experian, 179 million people had personal data stolen last year, and 32% of them went on to become victims of identity theft.
Unfortunately, confirming that you are a victim of identity theft is not always easy – or obvious. And the longer the thief goes undetected, the more money they can steal, creating other problems like damaging your credit score.
The problem is that it is not always easy to tell if someone is using your identity illegally. Here are some things you can check:
1. Unexpected transactions
You must check your bank and credit card transactions regularly, looking for anything unusual – especially payments that you don’t remember making. It’s not only the high value transactions that you need to watch either. Criminals will often make a tiny payment to check that the stolen card details work properly before making larger purchases – or emptying your bank account.
2. Unexpected bills and invoices
Your stolen identity can be used to set up credit accounts with retailers and lenders. Once billing begins, the paperwork will be posted or emailed to you, ready for payment. If you receive a bill you don’t recognise, you should follow-up with the retailer immediately. Just make sure the invoice is legitimate – not a phishing email – before clicking any links.
4. You receive emails and texts asking to reset your password
As they begin the process of stealing your identity, hackers will try and compromise all of your online accounts. If they can’t guess your passwords, they may try to reset them – which means you receive a number of password reset emails that you never asked for. If you use 2 Factor Authentication to login, you will also receive unexpected messages or push notifications on your phone.
5. You get a call from a debt collector
Most terrifying of all is a call from a debt collector about an unpaid bill for a purchase you never made. You should check your credit report immediately if you are contacted by a debt collector and alert them to any discrepancies. You will also need to file a police report as soon as possible.
Block the loopholes
Hackers and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated with their identify theft attacks. Fraudsters will always target online stores and banks first, but your own devices are also at risk of hacking.
To better protect yourself, ensure that you use a “virtual vault” to protect sensitive personal information that could be used for identity fraud. These virtual vaults use antivirus software to block malware bots and are encrypted to keep the hackers out.