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How To Check If Someone Is Illegally Using Your Name

Stolen and leaked information can be used at any moment. Keep tabs on your identity by regularly checking the places where scammers may try to use it.

Stolen and leaked information can be used at any moment. Keep tabs on your identity by regularly checking the places where scammers may try to use it.

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      Here’s Why Identity Theft Isn’t Always Easy To Spot

      Your name is often the first thing you share with new people — but it can also be one of the first pieces of personal information that cybercriminals use to steal your identity. 

      With just your name, scammers can scour the Dark Web for more data about you — including your phone number, address, Social Security number (SSN), and even pictures of your driver’s license. 

      Names were the most exposed pieces of information compromised in data breaches last year — followed by Social Security numbers and dates of birth [*].

      Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know if a fraudster or con artist is using your name and sensitive data — until the damage is done.  

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      How To Check If Someone Is Using Your Name and Identity

      Leaked or stolen data isn’t always used right away. It’s possible that cybercriminals have your name and other personal information, even if you haven’t seen any warning signs

      If your information has ever been exposed in a data breach or you’ve fallen victim to a phishing scam, you should be actively checking to see if your name and identity are being used without your knowledge.

      Here’s what to look for:

      Your credit report contains errors or unfamiliar accounts

      Fraudsters are almost always financially motivated, and they may use your name to open new credit card accounts or take out loans in your name — hurting your credit score in the process. 

      • Get your free credit reports. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to request free credit reports from all three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Look for accounts you didn’t open, unrecognized hard inquiries, and inaccurate personal information.
      • Sign up for credit monitoring. Credit monitoring providers monitor your credit reports and notify you of suspicious activity. Make sure you receive “three-bureau” credit monitoring services that keep tabs on your report with all three credit reporting agencies.
      ⚡️ Get alerted fast if scammers have access to your credit or bank account. A 2022 Mystery Shopper survey found that Aura’s credit monitoring was the most reliable and sent alerts faster than competing services 3. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      The IRS says there’s an issue with your tax return

      Criminals may use your identifying information to file a tax return in your name and claim your tax refund. You may not realize this has happened until the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rejects your tax return request — but by then, the fraud could take months to resolve. Regard any of the red flags below as cause for concern.

      • You receive unexpected communications from the IRS. Investigate immediately if you receive letters inquiring about a suspicious return, tax transcripts you didn’t request, notices claiming that you owe additional taxes, or notifications about changes to your online account that you didn’t make. 
      • Inaccurate IRS records. Look for salary or deductions from an employer you didn’t work for or an Employee Identification Number (EIN) you didn’t request.
      • You can’t e-file your tax return. The IRS may reject your tax return because a scammer has already used your SSN and name to file.

      Unrecognized charges, withdrawals, or users on your bank statements

      Even small unrecognized charges on your bank or credit card accounts can signal that you’re the victim of identity fraud. 

      • Aim to review your bank and credit card statements on a weekly basis. Your ability to get reimbursed for fraudulent activity depends on quickly spotting and reporting the fraud. 
      • Opt in to paperless statements. Not only will this give you real-time access to your bank account statements — it can also prevent financial information from falling into the wrong hands.

      📚 Related: What Can Scammers Do With Your Bank Account Number?

      Your bank records reflect information for accounts you didn’t open

      Scammers use stolen identities to open new bank accounts in victims’ names, where they can write fraudulent checks, overdraw the account, or carry out elaborate money laundering schemes.

      • Call to inquire about accounts in your name. Any new bank account that you don’t remember opening is a clear sign of identity theft that you shouldn’t ignore. Call banks directly to ask about new accounts in your name. 
      • Request a free ChexSystems report. You can visit chexsystems.com to request a free ChexSystems report once per year to review accounts in your name.
      • Look over your bank statements carefully. If a fake account was opened at the same institution as your real bank account, it may be included on your bank statement.

      You can’t log in to your online accounts

      If your passwords for your online accounts no longer work, there’s a good chance you’ve been hacked. Often, scammers attempt to log in to your email address first and then use it to reset the passwords on your other accounts — especially financial accounts.

      • Try to regain access to your account. Each service has its own process for recovering your account. 
      • Once you have access, secure your account. Update your password by using a unique string of letters, numbers, and special characters. Then, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for an additional layer of security.
      • Sign out of all devices. This will kick off anyone who’s logged in to your account — including users who shouldn’t be.
      Pro tip: Take extra precautions with sensitive accounts. If a hacker gains access to your financial accounts, contact the institution immediately to let them know that your account has been compromised so they can secure your funds.

      Imposter social media accounts are using your name and information

      Scammers may use your name and likeness to create fake social media accounts and target your friends and family. 

      • Search your name on Google and social media platforms. Click through profiles and look for overly similar information to yours — or even photos stolen from your online profiles. 
      • Report imposter accounts to each platform. Most apps and sites provide tools to let you report imposter profiles. If possible, inform your friends and acquaintances that the account isn’t yours and instruct them not to engage with the account in any way.

      Physical mail is missing (or you’re receiving strange bills)

      Identity thieves can steal your mail — or even conduct a change-of-address scam to reroute your mail to their address — giving them easy access to your phone number,  account numbers, and other identifying sensitive information.

      • Keep track of the bills you receive by mail. Check them off as you receive them each month. If mail is missing or you receive a change-of-address notification letter that you didn’t request, contact the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
      • Don’t ignore any bills you don’t recognize. Unfamiliar letters from debt collectors, prescreened offers for credit and home or health insurance, and strange bank statements can all be signs of identity theft. If you receive these, immediately contact the institution that sent them and request more information. 

      📚 Related: Someone Stole My Mail! What Should I Do?

      Unfamiliar income or jobs are listed on your Social Security Statement

      One common way that scammers use your name and personal information is to apply for jobs for which they normally wouldn’t qualify. Most illegal employment salary and benefits information will appear on your Social Security Statement. 

      • Review your my Social Security account. If you haven’t already, open a free my Social Security account online, and check for unfamiliar employment or payment information. 
      • Report any inconsistencies. If you see income that you didn’t earn, submit a report online at oig.ssa.gov. Alternatively, you can call the OIG fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.
      💪 Don’t get stuck dealing with identity theft alone. Every Aura plan includes 24/7 access to U.S.-based fraud resolution specialists — plus up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage for each adult plan member. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      What To Do If Your Identity or Name Is Being Used

      If you see any of these red flags indicating that someone is using your name, you could be a victim of identity theft. 

      Here’s what you can do to prevent further loss and damage:

      • Set up a fraud alert or credit freeze with each of the three major credit bureaus. A fraud alert requires lenders to verify your identity before extending credit. A credit freeze provides even more security, as it prevents anyone from accessing your credit file. To initiate a freeze, you’ll need to contact each of the three bureaus individually — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
      • Notify your bank and other financial institutions. Let them know someone has accessed your financial information so they can cancel your debit and credit cards and issue new ones. If your funds have already been stolen, the bank or company can help you recover the lost funds.
      • File an identity theft report. This involves two steps: First, file an official identity theft affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov. Then, use your FTC report to file a police report with your local law enforcement.
      • Secure your online accounts. Update your passwords so they’re harder to guess (and make sure you’re not re-using passwords across multiple online accounts and services). For added protection, use a password manager like the one Aura provides to securely store your online credentials.
      • Sign up for identity monitoring. Aura can monitor over 100 unique pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) across the Dark Web, data leaks, public records, and more. You’ll get alerted in near real-time if anything is found, along with access to 24/7 U.S.-based fraud resolution support. You can try Aura free for 14 days.

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      Spotting Identity Theft Early Is Critical – Aura Can Help

      The huge amount of leaked and stolen data in recent years puts almost everyone at some level of risk for different types of identity theft or impersonation. In most cases, identity theft happens quietly and can go unrecognized for months or even years.

      Having an early warning system in place is the most effective way to protect yourself. The best identity theft protection services offer powerful tools and features to help keep you and your loved ones safe.

      With Aura, you get an all-in-one solution that protects your entire family — with award-winning identity and credit monitoring, as well as digital security tools such as antivirus software and a military-grade virtual private network (VPN) to shield against hacking. 

      If the worst should happen, you’ll have round-the-clock access to Aura’s dedicated White Glove Fraud Resolution Specialists and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage (up to $5 million on family plans) to help assist you with a recovery plan.

      Safeguard your name, identity, and finances. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you to increase awareness about digital safety. Aura’s services may not provide the exact features we write about, nor may cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat discussed in our articles. Please review our Terms during enrollment or setup for more information. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime.

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