Tis’ the season for identity theft. This is the time of year ID theft rises. Although your identity can be stolen at any time you want to be more careful around the holidays. During the holiday season your credit and debit card transitions increase whether it’s in store or online. We are all aware of retail systems being hacked, but remember to stay aware of phishing emails — emails that may resemble a known person, creditor, etc. with ‘phishing’ links that allow the hacker(s) access to your personal information — within your email or computer system. Scammers seem more desperate around the holiday season so it’s important to stay aware and be safe.
According to The 2017 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016.
Information obtained during the holidays may not necessarily be used right away so it’s important to stay on top of monitoring your personal information. Pay careful attention to the signs below to be sure you aren’t a victim of identity theft.
Unknown credit inquiry
If you notice unauthorized credit inquiries on your credit report, this can be a sign of identity theft. A credit inquiry means a potential lender is seeing how credit worthy you are. Inquiries can remain for 2 years. If you need to review your credit report, you can do so for free at annualcreditreport.com
Unknown charges on credit card or bank statement
Unknown charges on your credit card or debit card are a red flag. As soon as you see an unknown charge, be sure to report it to your bank or creditor. Even if the charge is less than $1. Some thieves will start by pilfering money from your account cents at a time to see if a consumer notices. Then overnight wipe out your card or account. Immediately report unknown charges and replace your card if you become a victim. Many banks and credit card companies cover unauthorized charges and should refund your money without any issues.
Receiving bills that aren’t yours
We all get the monthly bills in the mail and sometimes an occasional bill or one that isn’t monthly, but if you start receiving bills or collection notices for services or products that aren’t yours, you may be a victim of identity theft. There is a chance someone opened an account in your name, and now you are being tracked down by skip tracers to pay the cost. Be sure to contact the bill collector and file a police report immediately, you will need the report to dispute, if the bill hits your credit report.
Address changes on credit report or accounts
If you are one who monitors your credit report, be sure to look at the personal information tab. Many consumers only look at account information. Personal information is very important as well, if you notice an address you have never resided at, you may be a victim of identity theft. Once a credit application is filed in your name, the address reported on the application is updated within your credit file. Any inconsistent information can be corrected with the appropriate credit bureau. Remember, there are three separate credit bureaus and each may contain different information: Experian, Transunion, Equifax.
Tax return already filed
Tax season opens the end of January each year, but the deadline to file taxes isn’t until April, many consumers are still waiting on important documents to file and rarely file early. Criminals have now begun to file fraudulent tax returns, typically in the first few weeks of tax season, beating the consumer to the punch. If you find a tax return has already been filed in your name, contact the IRS immediately as well as a police report.
Denial of Credit
If you know you have good credit and all of a sudden you are denied credit, check your credit report to be sure everything is in order. While Identity theft can be a reason, there are other factors for denial as well.