Identity theft is a cybercrime where intruders steal your personal information and use it for illegitimate activities. They make you suffer losses and implicate you in crimes you didn’t commit.
One way to stay ahead of scammers is to recognize their modus operandi (MO). Understanding the signs that they have stolen your identity helps you mitigate the damage. Here are some signs to watch out for.
1. Unauthorized Activities on Your Account
Financial fraud is one of the most common forms of identity theft. Attackers can steal your credit card details remotely and withdraw money from your bank accounts. Thankfully, banks and other financial institutions notify you about your account activities via email and short message service (SMS).
Pay attention to all alerts on your accounts. If you notice any transactions you didn’t authorize, someone must have retrieved your access privileges to do it. The perpetrator may try to make you less suspicious by withdrawing little amounts of money that you would overlook. Take it up with your bank regardless of the amount.
2. Disruption of Bank Account Alerts
Criminals know that the alerts you receive from your service provider can blow up their cover, so they stop the alerts from coming. Take debit alerts for instance, they could withdraw all your money, and you wouldn’t suspect a thing if you didn’t get a notification.
If you initiated a transaction on your bank account and you didn’t receive an alert on your connected devices, it could be more than a network glitch. Hackers may have tampered with your notification settings.
Identity theft actors can also disrupt notifications from your social media accounts. If the notifications you normally receive when you perform certain actions don’t come through, something is amiss. Consider changing your passwords immediately.
3. Exhaustion of Your Health Insurance Coverage
Medical fraud is a common type of identity theft where scammers compromise your health insurance coverage. They retrieve information about your health insurance and claim your benefits. If your coverage reaches its limits without your involvement, hackers must have stolen your identity and used it.
Attackers compromise your health insurance with your personally identifiable information such as your social security number, date of birth, and address. Securing such information preserves the privacy of your identity.
4. Unfamiliar Account Logins
Service providers notify users of strange logins on their accounts by sending a distress message to their connected devices. If you receive a message about a login you didn’t initiate, it means that someone else had gotten unauthorized access. They must have retrieved some information about you to access your account and can collect more of your sensitive data with their access privilege.
For unfamiliar logins on your banking and related accounts, report them to the organization immediately. Many service providers also have shortcodes that users can use to report suspected fraudulent activities and block their accounts from further exploitation.
If there’s an unfamiliar login on your social media account, change your password, and set up multi-factor authentication if you haven’t done that already.
5. Unauthorized Authentication Messages
You won’t receive authentication notifications unless you try to log into an account you enabled it on. If you receive a prompt to verify your identity via the preselected means, rest assured that someone attempted to log in.
Although receiving an authentication code indicates that your account is secure to an extent, it also means that the intruder has compromised your password, or else they wouldn’t get past the initial verification. To be on the safe side, change your password immediately.
6. Inability to Log Into Your Accounts
Are you unable to login into your account even after confirming that you are entered the correct password? It gets worse as your attempts to reset your password fails because you aren’t receiving messages for a reset. Your password is no longer valid because threat actors logged in and changed it. They also changed your connected contacts and devices, so you wouldn’t receive instructions to reclaim your account.
Report the incident to the service provider. You’ll need to provide evidence that you are the real owner of the account to back up your claim. Your chances of regaining your account are higher if the name on your account matches the name on your ID and other official documents they may request to verify your identity.
7. Receiving Strange Emails
Attackers trade stolen credentials on the dark web to multiple buyers who use the information for criminal activities. They may create accounts with your identity to look legitimate and boost their attacks. If you receive emails about services you didn’t sign up for, someone else might have signed up on your behalf.
Don’t click links and attachments in strange emails. For all you know, they may be phishing content infected with malware. If the message is related to your bank or credit card, contact your bank to block your account. Report to relevant authorities for more specialized cases.
8. Visits From Debt Collectors
Receiving a visit from debt collectors for debts you know nothing about is a serious issue, especially when they have concrete evidence to prove that you are the one they are looking for. You may not have borrowed funds from them, but someone else did so with your credentials.
Contact the relevant authorities for identity fraud issues. They will advise you on the best ways to prove your innocence. Going forward, take measures to secure your personal information better.
9. Denial of Financial Services Due to Irregular Activities on Your Account
Financial institutions examine users’ financial histories to determine eligibility for their services. If you seek a loan, they scrutinize your credit score and related attributes. Any irregularities are a red flag and it affects your assessment. You may not be aware of the discrepancies because criminals compromised your account.
Keep an eye on your credit records. The bureaus allow people to check their credit for free once a year. Seize the opportunity to ensure that your records are intact.
10. Receiving Dark Web Alerts
Dark web alerts notify you when your sensitive data has been compromised. You’ll be one of the first people to know should your credentials get on the market. If you receive an alert about your data, whoever has it must have hacked your accounts to retrieve it. Your personally identifiable information has been compromised.
Changing your login credentials is a good way to tighten loose ends on your accounts. Create stronger passwords this time. Use a password manager to make your passwords very strong and easy to use.
Secure Your Data By Being Proactive
The goal of knowing if criminals have stolen your identity is to manage the situation and prevent further damage. But you don’t have to wait until the chips are down before taking action. Secure your credentials with a proactive cybersecurity strategy by anticipating attacks beforehand. This enables you to secure your data and develop an effective incident response plan if attackers compromise your account.