Since 2019, identity theft has affected 47 percent of Americans. That’s more than heart attacks and strokes combined. It’s more people than work remotely. It’s more than the percentage of Americans that own dogs. Let’s just say: Identity theft is common.
Often, we only think about how a criminal steals our identity, not about what they can do once they steal it. In this blog, we share five activities that a stolen identity can be used for.
Opening a Line of Credit
Criminals use your social security number (SSN) and birthdate to apply for a new credit line.
How do you protect yourself from stolen identity? First, guard your personal information. You can use long and varied passwords, encrypted storage for sensitive documents, and always shred physical papers.
But after all that, you may still be asking yourself, “How do I know if someone stole my identity?” You’ll have to keep a lookout for unfamiliar accounts on your credit report. Look for judgment notices against you or debt collection notices. If you’re not shopping for new credit, freeze your accounts. You’ll get alerted whenever someone requests a new line of credit.
Filing for Unemployment
Since Covid-19 unemployment insurance program expansions, fraudulent claims have skyrocketed. You may not know about it until the IRS contacts your employer. To check if someone is collecting unemployment in your name, you’ll have to contact your state’s Department of Labor.
You can watch for mail about unemployment insurance benefits. Check bank statements, too. Are there any transactions related to a claim you did not make? Follow up. To prevent theft in the first place, do not give out sensitive information by phone, text, or email.
Buying and Selling Your Information That was Exposed as a Part of a Data Breach
You work hard to keep your info private so that you won’t become a victim of identity theft. But that doesn’t mean the dozens of companies you do business with won’t become victims. In 2020, over 1,000 companies experienced data breaches, exposing upwards of 150,000,000 Americans.
In August 2021, T-Mobile fell victim to one of the largest data hacks in history, compromising up to 100,000,000 customers. The data included birth dates and SSNs.
You can’t prevent data breaches like this. But you can check up with businesses where your data may be compromised. You can also check financial accounts and credit reports regularly for suspicious activity.
Prepare today for peace of mind tomorrow.
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Filing a Federal Tax Return
Anyone with your SSN and birth date can file a tax return, and you likely won’t discover if someone filed one on your behalf until you try to file a return using the same social security number. Even then, tech problems mean the IRS doesn’t inform you about the breach.
However, if they discover your case, the IRS may send you a Letter 5071C by mail to verify your identity. Be ready with identification and previous filing documents. Someone filing a tax return can open other financial accounts in your name. Freeze your credit and watch for unapproved transactions.
Using Stolen Medical Records
Identity thieves covet medical records with their wealth of personal information. They can open financial accounts with this information, file tax returns, and apply for loans. They can also get medical services. There are even cases of thieves trying to blackmail victims with embarrassing information.
Because of the nature of medical records, victims can’t easily “cancel” information. Few of us are willing to move or change our names and genders when we’re victimized. That means that medical records often carry fraudulent information for years.
Check statements from your health insurance plan for services you did not receive. Keep an eye out for debt collection attempts and calls about prescriptions.
Conclusion: Continually Monitor How Your Personal Information Is Used
Our identity is comprised of several different pieces of personal information such as our social security number, credit card numbers, addresses, and more. If we’re not continuously monitoring how our information is used, it’s got a greater chance of being swiped. Shop the Batten Marketplace for top-rated identity protection services to prevent your identity from getting stolen and monitor how your information is used across the web.