8 Signs Of Identity Theft & How To Protect Your Credit

credit card laptop identity theftIdentity theft is big business. And if you have been paying attention you probably know that data theft is exploding globally, especially so in the U.S. According to the Identity Theft and Resource Center and CyberScout  data breaches have hit  791 incidents in the first half of 2017 alone. Up 29 percent from last year.

Lets talk money. Last year over 15 million Americans were victims of identity theft. For the crooks that pulled in a staggering $16 billion. According to an Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, since 2011 identity thieves have stolen $107 billion from U.S. consumers.

African-American consumers are as vulnerable as any other Americans to identity theft. But here is the problem. Many data breaches are not reported for days and even months sometimes. Is that against the law? Not exactly. Sometimes law enforcement will ask the company not to publicly disclose the breach as part of the investigation. So, as I always say, your cyber security is your responsibility.

How do you know if your identity has been stolen?

The answer to that question is, it’s hard to tell without constant vigilance. The bottom line is that you have to be on the lookout for not only the obvious signs but subtle clues as well. Again, you are responsible for your cyber security and your money. Don’t expect banks or credit card companies to do all the work. Yeah, they have algorithms that can spot unusual transactions but they are not perfect by any means. Here are some clues you need to be alert for.

1. Monitor your mail. Are your bills and other mail failing to arrive as usual? This maybe an indication that your identity has been compromised and the thief has changed your mailing address. Cyber crooks are smarter than you think. You maybe getting some mail but the crook has re-directed items like your bank statement or credit card bills.  If bills are late follow up with creditors as soon as possible.

2. You’re turned down for credit. If you apply for credit and denied or you try to increase your credit limit and are rejected without good reason you need to be suspicious.  Especially if you have excellent credit. Being denied credit or being offered credit with a high-interest rate is a sign your identity may have been compromised. Take the time to contact the creditor to discuss what the problem is.

3. Mysterious bills for items you didn’t purchase. This is a good sign that your identity has been compromised. Especially bills that come from collection agencies.  You should contact the creditor immediately and inform them that you have been a victim of identity theft and it is not your debt. Report the situation to the police and your legitimate creditors and all three credit agencies as soon as possible. Also place a freeze on your credit to protect yourself from further damage. Some creditors will persist with collection efforts and even place negative information on your credit report. Write letters and keep good records. You need to establish communication and a paper trail to protect yourself.