With identity theft, a scammer uses personal information such as your Social Security number, driver’s license number or financial account information to wreak havoc on your financial life.
An identity thief may take over your bank account and drain your balance, charge a credit card up to the limit, take over your utility or mobile phone account, and apply for credit and loan accounts in your name, sticking you with the bills and a damaged credit history to clean up.
An identity thief might also apply for health insurance, jobs, tax refunds and even commit other crimes while impersonating you.
Identity thieves nab your private information through stolen wallets, bogus websites, computer viruses, by combing through your mail (snail mail and email), dumpster-diving behind businesses, posing as employees at legitimate businesses and using skimmers at ATMs to nab your PIN and financial account information.
Identity thieves also strike through data breaches of major retailers and financial companies, and it’s a fast-growing crime. Identity theft has topped the list of consumer complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission for 14 straight years.
To guard against identity theft, it’s important to monitor all of your financial accounts on a regular basis, as well as monitoring your credit. If an identity thief has stolen some of your information to open a new account in your name, it will impact your credit scores.
You can monitor your credit scores for free twice a month on Credit.com. Any unexpected changes in your score could signal identity theft and you should pull copies of your credit reports (you can do that for free once a year) to investigate further. Act fast to protect your credit and your finances.