As a knowledgeable consumer, you should be aware that identity theft takes a variety of forms. You can use certain precautions to protect yourself from identity theft, but sometimes even the most prudent people can be victimized. Identity theft can result in unexpected charges on credit cards, massive withdrawals from your bank account, or health insurance or utility bills that are not legitimate. An identity thief might even perpetrate tax fraud in your name or falsely implicate you in a criminal proceeding.
If you find out that a data breach occurred at a company that has access to your financial information, you should promptly take action to find out whether identity theft may have affected you. Also, the IRS will alert you if multiple tax returns are filed under your name or if you appear to be receiving income from a different employer. Not every situation is so obvious, though, and this discussion explains some other signs that should alert you to the possibility of identity theft.
Recognizing Identity Theft Related to Credit Cards and Bank Accounts
You should suspect identity theft if you find charges on a credit card that do not match your purchases. As a general practice, you should carefully review credit card charges to make sure that the charges look legitimate and that no vendors appear that you do not recognize.
Similarly, you should stay up to date with your bank account, checking periodically to see whether the records show any withdrawals that you did not make. These are usually easy to spot, especially since the amounts may be large and clustered in a relatively short time period. You also may have suffered from identity theft if your checks are turned down by businesses. This suggests suspicious activity related to a bank account.
Recognizing Identity Theft Related to Bills and Collections
If you suddenly stop receiving bills and mail as usual, you should consider the possibility of identity theft. You can contact merchants or other entities that usually send you bills to find out whether they have your current address, especially if you have recently moved. Also, receiving calls or emails from debt collectors about debts with which you are unfamiliar can be a red flag. These may be debts that an identity thief has accumulated while using your financial information. You will want to make sure that they do not go on your record and undermine your credit.
Recognizing Identity Theft Related to Health Care
You should review bills from your medical providers to verify that you are being billed only for treatment and services that you received. If a charge appears for a service that you do not recall receiving, you should follow up with your medical provider to make sure that you received it. Sometimes consumers are surprised to find out that they have reached their benefits limit, causing their health insurance provider to reject a legitimate claim. If you did not believe that you were close to reaching your benefits limit, this may indicate that an identity thief has breached your account.
Identity theft can take more subtle forms in the health care context as well. For example, you may find out that you are not eligible for a certain insurance policy based on a condition in your medical records. If you do not have this condition, you should consider the possibility that a thief may have altered your records.