The unfortunate thing about identity theft is that it can often go undetected for years, especially if you never have to use your credit to get a new credit card or loan. Early detection of identity theft is key to keep the thieves from doing too much damage to your credit. Though you may not recognize your identity has been stolen until you check your credit report, there are some signs that could tip you off sooner.
Billing statements for credit cards you never applied for
If you get a billing statement for a credit card you don’t remember opening, it may not be the credit card company’s fault. Someone could have applied for a credit card in your name, used your address, and swiped the card from your mailbox before you got a chance to see it.
Your credit card bill doesn’t come at all
Some credit card thieves change the address on your credit card account to keep you from catching on to theft too quickly. Starting February 22, 2010, credit card billing statements should come around the same time each month. Pencil this date on your calendar and check with your card issuer if the due date rolls around and you still haven’t received a billing statement.
Your billing statement includes charges you didn’t make
You don’t have to pay for fraudulent credit card charges that you didn’t make. Instead, you can dispute the charges with your credit card issuer. If you still have the credit card in your possession, you can’t be held liable for any of the charges. It’s a good thing to check your other credit cards too, to make sure they haven’t also been victimized.
Your credit card is unexpectedly declined for being over the limit
If your credit card reaches the credit limit, it could be that your credit card issuer lowered your credit limit without warning you. Or, a thief could have stolen your credit card number and maxed out your card. Check with your credit card issuer to see which is true.
Calls from debt collectors about accounts that aren’t yours
For many identity theft victims, this is often the first sign. Thieves have opened accounts in your name, neglected to pay the bill, and since the creditor wasn’t getting payment from you, they sent the account to a collection agency. Debt collections for unpaid utilities, cable bills, and cell phone service are also signs of identity theft.
Unexpectedly denied for a credit card or loan
This is probably the worst way to find out your identity has been stolen. Imagine waiting to get approved for a mortgage for your dream home and then getting denied for delinquent debts you didn’t know you had. When you’re turned down for a loan based on information in your credit report, the lender is required to tell you how to get a copy of the report. That way you can see first hand what’s hurting your credit.
Ideally, you want to know about identity theft before it ever reaches your credit report. Use these warnings signs to learn about identity theft and take steps to stop it before it goes further.