Spotting the earliest signs that someone has your identity
While it's easy to imagine that a majority of people who spend a great deal of time online are at least concerned about the possibility of identity theft, it's unlikely that anywhere near as many would be able to recognize the signs of it when it does happen.
Cyber-crooks are often very good at staying out of the spotlight, which is why they're so often able to stay undetected for such a long period of time. Victims are unlikely to know that anything has happened until they start getting unusual notices stating that they owe money to someone they've never worked with in the past.
Fraud costs the economy more than £190 billion a year simply because it's so hard to track. However, there are a few tell-tale signs that someone else has your information and is using it to their advantage.
Unexpected credit card issues
Imagine that all of a sudden your credit or debit card doesn't go through at the local Tesco. There's a possibility that this is just the result of a computer glitch, but it could indicate that some banking concern has placed a hold on your card. Don't panic if you've had problems a couple of times, but if this keeps happening something might be seriously wrong.
Naturally, the biggest sign of potential identity theft is the sudden appearance of unusual charges on a credit statement. A more concerning indication is the sudden arrival of a parcel at your home that you didn't order. Keep in mind that some apps and online services will place orders automatically, so mystery packages don't necessarily mean someone has your identity, but it certainly is a sign that something is wrong, especially if this happens in connection with some unusual charges.
Cheques that suddenly bounce are another signal, especially if you were otherwise sure that your bank account was generously padded beforehand. A bounced cheque can be rather surprising and could even carry some legal consequences with it. Unwanted calls from debt collectors are, however, the biggest sign that something is awry.
Dealing with debt collector phone calls
In most cases, debt collection agencies are hired on behalf of another party and some organisations might even sell off their bad debts to others. Therefore, any individual who gives you a ring will more than likely be unable to tell you more about what's going on. That being said, the sheer fact that you're getting calls like this in spite of the fact that you haven't rung up a large debt in the past is a sure sign of serious fraud.
Think about how often you use plastic. If you have missed a few payments, then these calls could genuinely be from your own activity that was simply forgotten about. Take steps to resolve these debts and then see if the calls start to go away.
Assuming they don't, you might want to consider working with a financial fraud protection platform that can help you to navigate a rather sticky situation. If things are unclear, however, then you might want to look for a few other signs that may be a bit harder to spot.
Subtle signs of identity theft
Sophisticated identity thieves have been known to actually change the mailing address of a victim. They'll then start to steal any mail that gets sent to a new address. Those who don't get mail for a long period of time might have fallen afoul of this kind of scam and not even know it. Higher-tech teams of scam artists may do the same with fraudulent email inbox software, so you'll want to keep on your digital mail slots as well.
Perhaps you've found that your mobile phone suddenly lost its signal. While this might be the result of a garden-variety service disruption, it could also be that an identity thief has transferred your service to some device of theirs. That means you're paying for them to use your plan. Reach out to your current wireless provider to work out this issue.
One of the weirdest indications may come in the form of a rejected tax filing. When you file certain forms, you might normally expect HM Revenue and Customs to reply positively. However, some identity theft victims have reported that their tax filings are rejected as a result of the fact that someone already filed in their name. In extreme circumstances, a few people have suddenly found that a warrant was issued for them in spite of the fact that they've never knowingly broken any laws.
That being said, those who run across any of these signs will want to keep a cool head and a stiff upper lip. It's normally possible to sort out genuine identity theft by working with the relevant authorities.
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