5 Signs of Identity Theft

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    Unusual Charges on Your Credit or Debit Card Statements When you receive your credit card bill or bank statement, you should review it with a fine-toothed comb. This is where the earliest signs of identity theft often show up - in the form of unauthorized charges to your account. Sometimes these bogus charges are tiny, just a dollar or two. Those small charges are often used to test the validity of the card, but they will soon be followed by larger ones. If you notice any charges you did not authorize, you should notify your bank or credit card company immediately.


    An Unexplained Rise in Your Car Insurance Rates You can expect your car insurance premium to go up if you have been involved in an accident or racked up a few speeding tickets, but if you have been a good driver and still seen a steep increase you could be looking at identity theft. Many car insurers factor your credit score into the equation when determining your rate, so a steep decline in your credit score could mean an equally steep rise in your premiums. If someone has stolen your identity and used it to borrow a bunch of money, your credit score will likely suffer as a result.


    Strange Entries on Your Credit Report If you notice either unusual charges on your credit and debit card statements or an unexplained increase in your car insurance rates, it is time to pull a copy of your credit report and get to the bottom of things. Look closely at the new inquiries and accounts sections. If you see anything you do not recognize, chances are you have already become a victim of identity theft. There is no need to pay for your credit report or even enter a credit card number. Just head over to annualcreditreport.gov to get a free copy of your report and see where you stand. It is a good idea to check your credit report anyway, even if you do not suspect identity theft.


    New Catalogs in Your Mailbox An influx of new junk mail is also a red flag for identity theft. Watch your mailbox closely, especially the names on all those catalogs. If you start getting mail with your address but some else's name, an identity thief could be using your address to obtain credit and take out loans. If you do start receiving strange mail, you should pull a copy of your credit report right away. You should also notify the credit reporting agency and local police that your identity may have been compromised.


    Missing Credit Card Statements Sometimes it is what you are not getting that tips you off to identity theft. If you budget properly, you should have a pretty good idea when your credit card and bank statements arrive each month. If that data passes and they still have not arrived, it could be because an identity thief has redirected your mail. If you are missing any credit card or bank statements, contact the issuer at once and make sure they still have your address on file. If not, it is time to get some help. Contact your local police department to report the identity theft, and let the credit reporting agency know as well.

    Recovering from identity theft can take years of hard work and hundreds or even thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs. Prevention is a much better strategy than recovery, and monitoring your credit report every three or four months is a good start. Even if you have already become a victim, the sooner you find out the easier it will be to mitigate the damage and recover your good name.