These days it seems like we can’t go more than a few months without news of another data breach. Retailers like Target, insurance providers such as Anthem, and even online video game platform Twitch — it appears that no company is safe.
“Every company — no matter how good their security team and no matter how strong their security technology — has something valuable these thieves want, and they will get it,” said Theresa Payton, CEO of the digital security company Fortalice and former White House chief information officer. “It’s not a matter of will they get in. It’s what happens to your data once they get in.”
While you might be feeling a little desensitized to big data breaches, it is more important now than ever before to keep your eyes open and be aware of the threat. While you might not be able to stop hackers from infiltrating companies, the data that is being stolen is still yours. It’s your job to watch out for signs of fraud — but you don’t have to do it alone.
Here are a few signs that you might be a victim of identity theft:
Errors on your credit report: Inaccuracies on your credit report can indicate that your identity has been stolen. Look for unauthorized address changes, new lines of credit opened in your name and credit checks from companies that you have never done business with.
Credit card gets declined: Unexpected declines are sometimes the first signs an account has been compromised. After a decline make sure to check your accounts and review all of the charges. Also call your card issuer to find out the reason behind the decline.
Collection agency calls: If debt collectors are calling about a debt that you have not incurred, it could be a sign that someone might have been spending money using your name. Never simply hang up the phone and assume it was a mistake. Question the collection agency thoroughly to ensure they are contacting the right person, and if they say they are, find out as much as you can about the alleged debt.
Medical insurance statements: If you aren’t looking over your insurance statements regularly, you could be missing something important. Thieves depend on people who purchase insurance and then forget that the account exists. It’s particularly important to keep track of medical insurance records, since criminals may be charging their own healthcare to your account. Look for false information, medical conditions you have not been treated for and unauthorized charges.
Unfamiliar mail: If you have received a statement for an unknown credit card in your name or have found mail catalogs sent to your address, but under a name you don’t recognize, it could be a sign that someone is using your information to take out credit cards and make purchases at retailers. Sometimes you may even receive packages you never bought — when a thief gains access to your online account but forgets to change the delivery address before making a purchase.
Missing mail: In other cases your regular mail might go missing entirely. For example, a credit card statement you get regularly might have stopped showing up. In this case it’s possible someone is swiping your mail from the mailbox to mine personal information. Or an identity thief has accessed your credit card account and changed the address for the statements so that they can continue stealing money without being detected.
If you are concerned that you may fall victim to identity theft, there are resources available to help protect you. If you suspect you are a victim visit www.idtheft.gov and report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. You should also consider registering for a credit monitoring service, which can alert you to certain types of activities that might indicate fraud. The sooner you know about it, the faster you can take action to stop the thief from further damage.