How to Check If Someone Is Using My Identity
Table of Contents
- By Steven
- Jan 29, 2024
Nowadays, digital transactions and virtual interactions aren’t exactly optional. People can’t keep their information off the web due to professional reasons, and many processes are exponentially more convenient through an online profile.
With the influx of data stored on the web, it’s a veritable treasure trove for malicious hackers. Bits and pieces of the personal details we nonchalantly put in online profiles can lead to severe identity theft cases. And the risk gets worse the more reliant we become on the internet.
An experienced criminal can often use an identity for months or years before the victim realizes it. They skim small amounts off accounts and take advantage of people who don’t regularly check their transaction histories or credit reports.
There are a few habits you can pick up to keep a closer eye out for potential parasites using your name. If you find any, we’ll also share how to get clean and possibly recoup your losses.
How Can You Check Whether Anyone Is Using Your Identity
Whether you’ve seen clear signs of a stolen identity or not, you should never forget the possibility is there. Adopting even the lowest-effort security habits can save you thousands of dollars in the worst-case scenario.
Monitoring Credit Reports and Financial Statements
The most time-effective and low-stress way to check for identity theft is regularly monitoring your credit reports and financial statements. Be on the lookout for unexplained charges, withdrawals, or unknown accounts. While you may have forgotten about individual charges, it’s more likely that someone is using your name for identity fraud.
We CANNOT overstress the importance of doing this every few months, at least.
Only checking these records once in a blue moon will make it harder to recall whether everything is accurate. Do you remember how much you spent at Bed, Bath & Beyond last year? Looking at your financial report each season keeps things fresh in your mind and makes it more likely that you’ll notice suspicious patterns.
Check Your Name Online
Your name is useful for more than financial fraud. Criminals or rivals may impersonate you online to damage your reputation or burn bridges. They can do this through fake social media accounts, professional profiles, and emails.
One way to check for fake instances of yourself is through online and public record search services. Hiring managers often use these tools during background checks to quickly check an applicant’s online footprint.
These services pull up criminal records, property files, address information, financial filings, and social accounts. They comprehensively show your general trustworthiness and how you’d fit in with company culture. A spiteful rival may create hateful or defamatory posts in your name.
Running a search on your name allows you to check if an identity thief made any fake posts or profiles.
Set Up Alerts for Credit Inquiries
Identity thieves open new lines of credit to avoid detection. The victims can’t check on accounts they don’t know exist. Criminals will even change the application's mailing address and contact information so the victim never receives notice of the new account.
However, you can get around this strategy by initiating an extended credit fraud alert.
Credit alerts are a warning on your profile demanding that the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, & TransUnion) contact you after receiving any requests for your information. Banks and credit providers will always check your credit before approving a new account, and a credit alert is an easy way to get notified of illegal requests.
Recognizing Passive Warning Signs
You don’t always have to search for signs of identity theft actively. Sometimes, remaining vigilant and picking up on a few red flags is all you need.
Increased Spam Emails or Calls
An increased number of suspicious calls or emails is one symptom of identity theft. It means that someone has obtained your contact information through nefarious means. While this doesn’t automatically indicate a compromised identity, it’s a clear sign of worry.
Missing Financial Notices
Once they’ve stolen your login credentials, an identity thief will first change your mailing information. This delays you from reviewing the charges or seeing warning notices from the bank or credit providers.
It’s easy to check if this is an issue. If you notice missing mail, log into your official credit account and check the mailing information. A false address is helpful proof when trying to recoup damages.
What to Do If You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen
The slightest suspicion of identity theft should spur you into action. The faster you check, the less likely there will be lasting damage to your name.
Start a Credit Freeze
Credit freezes wholly shut down access to your credit report. No financial institution can request a copy, even with your explicit permission. You must manually lift the credit freeze with a designated PIN before applying for new credit lines. Once invoked, a freeze makes it impossible to use your personal information for financial fraud, even with your social security number.
You do this by contacting any of the three major credit bureaus and requesting the freeze. Each bureau is legally responsible for notifying the other two of your wishes, so you aren’t required to call them individually.
Contact Your Credit Providers
Call your bank, credit card companies, and credit-accepting businesses, and inform them of your increased identity theft risk. They may tell you about strange charges you don’t know about because the criminal altered your contact information. Take the chance to switch out your existing cards, tracking information, and login information.
Report the Fraud to Law Enforcement
Visit your local law enforcement office and make an official report. You’ll need this documentation when proving the crime to creditors, and it’ll make it much easier to refund fraudulent charges. You might also have to file with the Federal Trade Commission before going to the police.
Keep Your Identity Safe from Thieves
Your identity is your most valuable and dangerous asset. It can irreparably damage your professional, social, and financial future if used against you. Identity theft necessitates you keep a proactive and habitual approach to personal security.
However, noticing red flags will become even more challenging as technology and fraud strategies improve. You must integrate new technologies into your identity theft protection. If you want to learn how to protect yourself better or recover from identity theft, our Sentinel has countless resources detailing your next steps.