33% of U.S. adults have experienced identity theft.
In 2019 alone, 14.4 million consumers were victims of identity fraud.
That’s about 1 in 15 people.
Dave C. is one of many Americans whose life was ruined by identity theft.
Dave was doing well for himself before things went badly.
He had a high-end job making 180K a year.
He was an avid online shopper, frequenting popular websites such as eBay.
And he used his debit card like it was a credit card.
One day, he noticed unauthorized charges coming out of his bank account.
They were for small amounts of $20 or $40.
His bank account often had $30,000 in it, so the amounts didn’t immediately raise a red flag.
But, then the amounts increased…
Sometimes there were unexplained charges for $500 or $600.
One day, he lost thousands in fraudulent charges.
Dave immediately called his bank and began the process of getting his money back. In total, he filed twenty affidavits disputing the fraudulent charges.
Around the same time, he lost his high-paying job.
He went from making thousands a week to $700 in unemployment.
He switched banks, but his new bank account was hacked within a few days.
In less than six months, over $900,000 worth of fraudulent purchases had been made.
Dave spent $100,000 trying to restore his identity.
His Social Security number, address, phone number, and even family information have been used to open new bank accounts.
According to Dave, “I have no identity. It really ruined me,” he said. “It ruined me financially and emotionally.”
Identity theft can happen to anyone.
Yet, it’s often the middle class and wealthy who are the biggest targets.
This is because the more money you spend, the more likely you are to fall victim to identity theft.
Also, those who spend a lot of money online without using secure computers are at increased risk.
If you are paying close attention, there are usually signs that your identity has been stolen.
IRS denies your taxes:
If you submit your taxes and the IRS denies them, it could be a sign that they think you have already filed.
This means someone has filed taxes in your name with your Social Security number.
If someone else files a tax return in your name, the thief likely used your information to claim a fraudulent refund.
To avoid tax-related identity theft, or find out if something’s going wrong… it’s a good idea to file your tax return as early as possible.
Another sign your identity has been stolen is if you receive bills for medical services you didn’t receive.
You might even receive medical insurance explanation of benefits statements for healthcare services that you didn’t receive.
This is an indicator that someone else is using your personal information.
Also, if your health care plan won’t pay a claim, it might be because you’ve reached your benefits limit.
And that may be due to fraudulent claims…
Especially if you know that you haven’t reached your limit.
Each month you should receive a statement from every bank or credit card you have.
This might be in the form of an e-mail or regular mail.
But, if your bills and bank statements suddenly don’t arrive, this could mean someone has changed your address with the bank.
Identity thieves still use old methods like stealing mail and dumpster diving.
Also, a mailbox is an easy target for thieves. So, pick up your mail often and pay attention to missing bills or statements.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft put a freeze on your credit report with the three major bureaus.
Also, contact your local police department and file report with them. You may need this to show your bank or creditors.
In some cases of identity theft, you need the help of a debt attorney.
They can assist with fixing your finances and can deal with debt collectors.
They can also work to have fraudulent information removed from your credit report.
Having your identity stolen can be devastating.
Use these tips to keep ahead of the crooks and save yourself the headache.