7 Signs of Identity Theft

Early detection helps to correct any damage and prevent further damage

Identity theft costs victims significantly in both time and money. Though most credit card issuers have zero fraud liability policies, consumers can potentially spend hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours dealing with identity theft. There were 16.7 million victims of identity theft in 2017, according to a study by Javelin Research

Early detection is always key when it comes to fighting identity theft. The sooner you find out about a theft occurrence, the sooner you can take steps to correct any damage and prevent further damage. Here's how to recognize the signs of identity theft so you can respond quickly.

You Get Collection Calls About Accounts You Never Opened

Young woman in front of a laptop holding her head in her hand as she learns she is a victim of identity theft

praetorianphoto / Getty Images 

Calls from debt collectors are often the first sign of identity theft. By the time debt collectors start calling you, accounts have been open without your knowledge for several months.

If you get a call about an account, you never opened, let the collection agency know this debt isn’t yours and to stop contacting you about the debt.

Get a copy of your credit report to see if other accounts have been opened in your name. Place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report to prevent future unauthorized accounts.

Your Credit Report Contains an Account You Didn't Open

If you notice an account on your credit report that you didn't open, don’t assume it’s a mistake made by the credit bureau or the credit card issuer. It’s quite possibly a sign of identity theft.

Don't ignore the account, even if it doesn't have a negative payment history. Use the credit report dispute process to get the account removed from your credit report, and call the company that reported the account to let them know about the fraud.

You Are Unexpectedly Denied for a Credit Card, Loan, or Other Service

Fraudulent accounts can keep you from being approved for credit card and loan products, particularly if the accounts have a negative payment history or high balances.

Lenders are required to let you know if you're turned down for credit because of information on your credit report. They'll give the reasons you were denied and let you know that you’re entitled to a free credit report. Take advantage of this free credit report to figure out whether you’ve become a victim of identity theft. You only have 60 days to order this free credit report, so act quickly.

Your Credit Report Contains Inquiries From Businesses You Don't Recognize

Credit reports contain both soft inquiries, which are often made for promotional purposes, and hard inquiries, which result from applications made by you or an identity thief.

Unfamiliar hard inquiries are a sign that someone has applied for credit products in your name. If you spot inquiries like this, put a fraud alert on your credit report to warn businesses to confirm your identity before granting credit products. Continue monitoring your credit reports to see if any fraudulent accounts appear and handle those appropriately.

Your Credit Card Bills Suddenly Stop Coming

Thieves can use the change of address forms to reroute your mail to another address. If your credit card billing statements suddenly stop arriving each month, call your credit card issuer to confirm your statements are being mailed to the correct address. Then, take extra steps to ensure your mailbox is secure, so mail can’t be stolen from your mailbox.

Your Credit Card Is Missing

Report a lost or stolen credit card to your credit card issuer as soon as you notice it’s missing. Many credit card issuers have $0 fraud liability protection plans that keep you from paying up to $50 of any fraudulent charges that have been made on your credit card.

You Get Bills for Accounts You Never Opened

If you receive a credit card statement that has your name on it, but for a credit card you didn’t open, contact the credit card’s customer service immediately. Let them know you didn’t open the credit card and that you suspect that this is a sign of identity theft. You should also check your credit report for other fraudulent accounts.

Identity theft can affect anyone. One of the worst things about identity theft is it can go undetected for months, giving thieves a chance to wreak havoc on your credit history. Get in the habit of checking your credit often. You can monitor your credit for free with services like CreditKarma.com and CreditSesame.com.

If you notice suspicious activity, act quickly. Work with the credit bureaus and the companies which opened the accounts to clear up fraudulent accounts quickly. You may need to file a police report or complete an identity theft affidavit to support your identity theft claim.