Identity theft is a common felony with a long history going back centuries. Take the example of Martin Guerre, a sixteenth-century French peasant who was successfully impersonated for three years after disappearing from his village!
Unfortunately, thanks to our era of digitalization, identity theft is easier than ever, as our personal information is becoming the easy target of ingenious cyber criminals. In fact, identity theft statistics show the incident occurs to 33% of the adult population, with online identity theft levels being double those for the world.
Why Is Identity Theft a Big Thing Right Now?
Usually, identity thieves steal information for the sole purpose of making a quick buck. Draining bank accounts, running up credit, and making false insurance claims are a few examples of what they might do with your information.
What’s more, the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies has opened lucrative new opportunities for identity thieves. For instance, in 2020, a former Microsoft engineer was sentenced to nine years in prison for trying to defraud his former employer of $10 million. His sophisticated scheme involved bitcoin mixers and the accounts and passwords of other Microsoft employees he had stolen.
The US Department of Justice interviewed 59 identity thieves to find out just exactly why they do it. The most common answer was because it’s an easy, risk-free way to make money fast, be it to fund their drug habits or phoney lifestyle.
With that in mind, here are five signs someone might be using your identity:
Unusual Bank Transactions
If you don’t check your bank statements regularly, you should start today. You must be on top of all your bank account transactions so that you know whenever unusual transactions pop up. This typically means someone might be using your identity.
Stopped receiving mail all of a sudden? While it may due to some mixup at the post office, it could also be that someone else is receiving your mail. If you notice that you haven’t been receiving any items in the mail, you should look into it immediately.
Calls about Unpaid Bills
Another sign that your identity is currently being used by someone else is when you begin to receive phone calls from debt collectors, medical providers billing you for items you can’t seem to remember, or from the IRS about multiple tax returns filed or other discrepancies.
Problems with Your Insurance
Identity thieves also commonly target victims with insurance so that they can take out false claims and cash in the money. If you notice troubles with medical claims or any other claim, be sure to contact your insurance agent ASAP.
Unknown Accounts or Charges on Your Credit Report
You have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report from the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) every 12 months. Make sure you take advantage of that! In fact, it’s a good idea to check your credit report more frequently to avoid nasty surprises.
If you think your identity is being used by someone else, act quickly before more damage is done. The first thing is to report it to your local police department so that an investigation can be carried out and the situation can be mediated as soon as possible. Remember the warning signs and stay vigilant.