Many people’s worst nightmare is having their identity stolen and used for any number of illegal acts. There are some telltale signs, like a sudden decrease in your credit score or anomalies on your bank records, that can let you know whether someone has taken advantage of you by stealing your Social Security Number or other personal information.
Once you’re sure your identity is being used fraudulently, notify the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and file a police report. You must also let your bank know immediately and place a fraud alert on your accounts. The most effective action is the quickest when it comes to identity fraud.
Scrutinize Your Credit Reports
If you’ve recently wondered, “How to check if someone is using my identity?” you’re not alone. Identity theft and fraud are much more common than you may have initially believed. One way to check to see if your identity has been compromised is to keep a close watch on your credit reports, requesting full reports multiple times a year.
Your credit report contains every account that’s open in your name, as well as credit inquiries and loans. Most credit or identity fraud occurs on an existing account taken over by criminals.
According to the 1970 Fair Credit Reporting Act, every American can request a full, free credit report from each of the three major credit companies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Since each company must give you a yearly freebie, you can get a credit score report every four months to stay on track.
It may be a little painful, especially if your credit score is on the low side, but the next step is to painstakingly go through each of the accounts in your name and note any you don’t recognize.
Also, inspect the payment history and assess if it matches your records. Any payments not paid by you may mean an identity theft is ongoing.
Question Unsubstantiated Withdrawals
With convenient online services, you can monitor your bank accounts more closely than ever before. The downside of the efficiency is that it’s also easy for online identity thieves to get information about your bank accounts.
What you’re looking for when you inspect your bank records is any cash withdrawal you did not initiate, even if they are seemingly small amounts. Money transfers are also a sneaky way that crooks can divert your finances into their own pockets.
Keep Watch on Your Mail
Another sign that your identity has been compromised is if you’re not getting your mail. If you have a scheduled delivery or a monthly bill, but it doesn’t arrive despite speaking with the company about the issue, you may be dealing with identity theft.
Using your identity, thieves can fill out a change-of-address form, diverting all of your mail and whatever mail they generate with your identity. Strange medical bills, W-2s for jobs you never even applied for, or notifications of third-party breaches are all sure signs that your identity is compromised.
It’s tedious, but this next step may be the most crucial of all. Throughout the process, keep checking your credit scores, bank accounts, and FTC identity theft reports to ensure no other anomalies pop up. This scrutiny can help you resolve your identity fraud nightmare swiftly.
Once you have all the evidence locked down, and your sources checked and double-checked, you’re ready to make an official report.
The Next Steps
You only need a few telltale signs to consider, “how to check if someone is using my identity?” Once you’ve taken note of the clues and double-checked your evidence, you’re ready to take more public and formal steps to resolve your identity fraud crisis.
First, you should report it to federal and state-level police officials, and you also need to notify your banks. Also, communicate with those companies that interacted with the fraudster.
Here are your next steps:
- File an Official Report
You can file an official police report either in person or online. Go to the station in person if your identity has been used in conjunction with other crimes or if the perpetrator is a close family member. If these are not the circumstances, you should first report your situation to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Along with an official police report, you can also relay the threat to credit reporting agencies, your financial institution, or the company of any fraudulent charges you received.
The State Attorney General’s office is another excellent option, but you should report the fraud to the FTC online for an official identity theft report and a recovery plan.
- Freeze Your Credit
You can block your credit so that no new accounts or credit lines can be opened, although that may provide you with excessive financial strain. If you’re opening a new business or applying for a home loan, for example, you may be unable to take that step.
If so, you can still enact a fraud alert. Putting a fraud alert on your accounts can make it exceedingly difficult to open any new accounts or new lines of credit with your name or information.
- File Taxes Earlier
Online thieves may assume that you file your taxes around the deadline in April, along with most other Americans. If you file your taxes early, you accomplish two things. First, you (and not an online thief) will receive your tax refund. Second, you deter cybercriminals from using your SSN to file falsely.
- Notify Your Bank
Along with the FTC, immediately let your bank know if you suspect any nefarious actions on any of your accounts. Your bank has the experience and resources to guide you through this messy process and can be an ally in a trying time.
The Take-home Message
Identity theft is a terrible situation that upends homes and breaks hearts all the time. Know the signs that something isn’t quite right by inspecting your mail, keeping a close eye on all your official financial reports, and reporting any substantiated fraud to the FTC.