Here's How To Know If Your Identity Has Been Stolen
Dec 1, 2021
Updated 1 day ago
Head of Content at Aura
Is Someone Using Your Identity?
Identity theft happens every day.
Estimates are that 47% of Americans experienced financial identity theft in 2020.
With nearly half of the population affected, you're probably wondering if someone has stolen your identity.
In this guide, we'll reveal the top red flags associated with identity fraud, expose the most common types of scams, and then show you how to check for identity theft.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
To steal your identity, con artists need your personal information. Here are 3 of the most common identity theft techniques:
Scammers will send spam emails, texts, or even call you pretending to be a representative from Facebook, a government agency or law enforcement. They’ll pressure you to “confirm your identity” by asking for personally identifying information such as your Social Security number, and then use that information to commit crimes.
If a thief comes across your driver’s license or Social Security card, they can use that information to commit identity fraud. You probably didn't know this, but criminals don't need much to steal your identity. Your ID alone provides enough information that can be used for identity theft. Criminals may also try to steal your physical mail to obtain financial information such as your bank account number or credit card account numbers.
Modern day scammers can hack a company’s database or obtain hacked information from the Dark Web. Stolen data can include any information you've saved on a shopping website, from passwords to credit card details to Social Security numbers.
10 Ways to Recognize Identity Theft
Your credit report doesn't seem accurate.
Suspicious activity on your credit card and bank statements.
Unexpected physical mail.
Missing physical mail.
Your personal documents are lost or stolen.
Suspicious phone calls and voicemails.
Suspicious texts and emails.
Unfamiliar SMS verification codes.
Your income tax return is way off.
Unfamiliar devices have access to your online accounts.
1. Your Credit Report Doesn’t Seem Accurate
Reviewing your credit history is one of the most effective ways to know if your identity has been stolen.
Unfortunately, most people don't check their credit report until it's too late. For example, imagine you're attempting to buy a new car at the dealership but the lender denies you a line of credit. This could be a sign of credit theft.
If you have any doubts, request a free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. You can get a free credit report from the federally authorized site, AnnualCreditReport.com.
Check for unfamiliar charges on your credit card accounts or suspicious inquiries on your credit file. The major credit bureaus will typically include these details in your credit report, which will impact your overall credit score.
If you find any evidence of fraudulent activity on your credit report, you may be a victim of identity theft.
2. Suspicious Activity on Your Credit Card and Bank Statements
Look for unauthorized charges or withdrawals on all your debit and credit accounts. Don’t ignore the small transactions either, as thieves will often start with a small purchase to test whether a card works—and to gauge how vigilant the account holder is.
Check out this segment from CNBC to better understand why credit card fraud in the U.S. a problem that's only getting worse.
3. Unexpected Physical Mail
What’s inside your mailbox can be a red flag for identity theft.
The first and most obvious sign is unfamiliar mail. If you see credit card statements or letters from agencies you don’t recognize, it could mean someone is applying for loans or credit cards under your name.
Another possibility is medical identity theft. In this scenario, you may receive written notices from a health insurance company regarding unfamiliar procedures, or invoices from a doctor's office that you never visited.
Thieves will steal packages right off your front porch. They'll steal mail directly from your mailbox, and even submit a change of address request to try and route all your letters and packages to an authorized address.
It's especially important to monitor your physical mail when you’re expecting sensitive deliveries, like a new credit card or a replacement Social Security card.
5. Your Personally Identifying Documents Are Lost (or Stolen)
It's critical that you know where all of your identifying documents and debit/credit cards are at all times.
If any of the following items are lost or stolen, you may be at risk for identity theft:
Given how widespread this problem has become, you might get notifications about new accounts created in your name, or flagged transactions from your bank or credit card.
During the holiday season, text message scams are particularly prevalent during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It's not uncommon to get a fake delivery notification via SMS, just like this example below.
Therefore, instead of receiving 2FA codes via SMS, you should always strive to use an authentication app such as Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator, or Okta.
9. Your Income Tax Return is Way Off
Tax fraud is a simple, but lucrative scam. A fraudster will impersonate you by reporting income that qualifies you for a tax refund—except the thief cashes the check, then vanishes.
Beware of notifications that a tax return has been filed on your behalf, or if you receive a W-2 (or other tax forms) from a company you never worked for. You can also go online and review your tax return status on the official IRS website.
This type of scam is most common at the beginning of the year, before most people have filed their annual taxes with the IRS.
10. Unfamiliar Devices Have Access to Your Online Accounts
We're using more devices to access our online accounts than ever before.
If you receive a notification like the example below, it means you've been hacked and must secure your account immediately.
Was Your Identity Stolen? Follow These 10 Steps
Change all your passwords.
Use a secure password manager.
Force all unfamiliar devices to sign out.
Enable 2FA via authenticator apps (not SMS).
Notify your bank and cancel your accounts.
Notify the FTC.
File a police report.
Freeze your credit.
Use antivirus software.
Get ID theft protection.
1. Change All Your Passwords
Preventing identity theft starts with having strong, unique passwords. Most people know they need to change all their passwords, but they keep putting it off because it's a headache. Change your usernames and easily guessable common passwords to avoid being financially ruined.
Another bad habit is choosing simple passwords that you can easily remember off the top of your head. If you can remember it, that means it can be hacked. Instead, use a secure password manager for ultimate peace of mind.
3. Force All Unfamiliar Devices to Sign Out
There's a good chance your accounts were accessed by foreign devices from unfamiliar locations. You'll need to make sure they're logged out.
4. Enable 2FA via Authenticator Apps (Not SMS)
As explained, SMS is vulnerable to SIM swapping, and therefore you should use apps like Okta or Google Authenticator to secure your sensitive accounts.
5. Notify Your Bank and Cancel Your Accounts
When identity theft occurs, you'll need to contact your bank. They'll assist you through the process of canceling your checking account, savings account and obtaining new credit cards. You'll need to transfer all your funds from the old accounts to your new accounts, and set up a new instance of online banking as well. If you have a lot of credit cards, this process can be a hassle, but it's worth the extra effort to secure everything and start fresh.
6. Notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
You should submit a report to the Federal Trade Commission if your identity is compromised. The FTC handles fraud cases and can provide assistance. You can file a claim with the FTC online at IdentityTheft.gov
7. File a Police Report
In addition to reporting identity theft to the FTC, you should contact your local law enforcement and file a police report. If you are covered by identity theft insurance, a police report may be required in order to submit an insurance claim.
Ransomware, malware and spyware are running rampant today. Don't let these harmful applications wreak havoc on your privacy. Try an antivirus solution like Aura to keep your devices protected.
Additionally, public Wi-Fi will leave you exposed to all types of security vulnerabilities. Public internet connections like those at coffee shops, libraries, and airports can be tempting—but they’re not secure. If possible, use a VPN to protect your data while browsing publicly.
* Identity Theft Insurance underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group‚ Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms‚ conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms‚ conditions‚ and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.
¹ The score you receive with Aura is provided for educational purposes to help you understand your credit. It is calculated using the information contained in your TransUnion or Experian credit file. Lenders use many different credit scoring systems, and the score you receive with Aura is not the same score used by lenders to evaluate your credit. ² You may cancel your membership online and request a refund within 60 days of your Aura membership purchase either through your Aura Account Membership portal or by calling us at 1-855-712-0021.
³ ath Power Consulting, 2018
⁴ Child members on the family plan will only have access to online account monitoring and social security number monitoring features. All adult members get all the listed benefits.
⁵ Identity Theft Protection Review is a marketing affiliate of Aura, and may receive monetary compensation from Aura.
No one can prevent all identity theft or monitor all transactions effectively. Further, any testimonials on this website reflect experiences that are personal to those particular users, and may not necessarily be representative of all users of our products and/or services. We do not claim, and you should not assume, that all users will have the same experiences. Your individual results may vary.