How to Spot Identity Theft and Ways it Can be Used Against You

ID theft is unfortunately very commonplace today, and sometimes it can be unavoidable. Keep reading to find out a few ways you can safeguard your personal and financial information, how to spot if identity theft might be happening to you, and ways that having your identity stolen can be used against you.

3 Main Signs Your Identity Has Been Stolen:

  • There are accounts you don’t recognize on your credit report.
  • There are unfamiliar transactions on your credit card or bank statements.
  • The IRS informs you that more than one tax return has come in under your name.

Ways ID Theft Can Be Used Against You:

  • The identity thief may use your information to get credit, a loan, or another service in your name. This will ultimately affect your credit score, and potentially your credit usage and how much you’ll be approved for – if not spotted in time.
  • Your own money could be stolen right out of your bank account. If the identity thief uses your personal information to login to your bank accounts, your money could be stolen right out from under you.
  • Your tax refund could get stolen. If you go to file your taxes and are notified by the IRS that they already have a return filed under you, this is a very good indicator that an identity thief has already gained access to your tax refund.
  • Your Social Security Number could be used to work at a job you don’t actually have. An identity thief who has access to your SSN may use it for their own employment purposes. This could also directly affect your tax return, as it would add extra income you will be taxed on.
  • Your health insurance could be used to provide medical care or prescriptions to an identity thief.
  • Your personal and financial information could be used to file a false unemployment claim. This would mean unemployment benefits are being issued in your name to someone else.

There are a few things you can put in place to spot ID theft right away, and to help thwart it off:

  • Be sure you are reviewing an annual free credit report. At least once a year, go to and review your credit report for accounts you didn’t open yourself, or to see if there were any credit inquiries that are not yours. You’ll want to check for credit cards you didn’t open, and car or personal loans you did not apply for. Utility services will also appear on your credit report, so you’ll also want to make sure you actually have the ones listed on it.
  • Check your bank statements often. At least once a month, review your bank and credit card statements to check for accuracy. Be sure the purchases listed were ones made by you. If not, call your financial institution to dispute any incorrect charges right away.
  • Sign up for email or text alerts. Most banks and credit cards offer purchase alerts that you can setup for your accounts. Check your mobile app or online banking settings to see what your alert options are. Here at First Financial, our members have access to First Financial Wallet. If you haven’t already, get started today!
  • Review your health insurance statements. Take note of any medical bills or explanation of benefits statements that arrive in the mail. If you don’t recognize a medical procedure or expense listed, call your health insurance provider immediately.

For more ways to protect your identity, check out our identity theft prevention guide.

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6 Things to Do if Your Identity is Stolen

Smartphone in hand, concept of data protection, blue

The best line of defense against identity theft is prevention, but when that fails you need to handle the situation correctly and swiftly. If you notice any mysterious purchases or your bank contacts you about confirming charges, your account may be compromised. If you believe that someone has stolen your identity, minimize the damage by following these steps.

1. Identify and close the account in question

The most common (and sometimes the only) way to discover compromised accounts is noticing fraudulent charges after they’ve posted. When you become aware of the situation, contact your financial institution as soon as possible, dispute the charges, and ask to either lock or close your account.

2. Look for other unauthorized charges

Next, you need to pull up your other accounts and scan old statements for additional charges you don’t recognize. If you find any questionable charges, call your financial institution and alert them of the problem. You may have to put a lock on a number of your accounts if your identity has in fact been stolen.

3. Review your credit report

When assessing whether you’re a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, your last stop should be your credit report. By law, you’re entitled to at least one free credit report from each credit reporting agency every year. Request your reports and look for any account that you don’t recognize.

4. File a report with the FTC

After you have a pretty good handle on the extent of your problem, you need to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. You only need to do this if you think that your identity has been stolen. The FTC doesn’t handle credit card fraud, so if only one account was touched you probably aren’t a victim of identity theft and don’t need to submit a report.

5. Set up a fraud alert

A fraud alert puts a red flag on your credit report and notifies both lenders and creditors that they should take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit. All you have to do is call one of the three credit reporting agencies to place a 90-day alert on your reports. Don’t worry about any potential stigma that could come with this, it is a rather common practice nowadays.

6. Open new accounts and move forward

Most financial institutions advise opening up new accounts following identity theft, even those that might not have been compromised. After all is done, make sure that you implement preventative measures going forward. There are plenty of ways to make yourself a less likely target and they all take less work than recovering from being a victim.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for


3 Ways Consumers Can Fall Victim to Identity Theft

Identity-Theft-CreditThere’s really only one way to protect yourself from identity theft. Stop spending money and trust no one. It’s pretty easy.

OK, it isn’t easy. Talk to enough victims of identity theft, and you start to realize that it really can happen to anyone – and sometimes, no matter how careful you are, it can happen to you. That’s why it helps to study how people’s identities were stolen and learn from it. Here a few ways identity theft happens along with strategies to prevent it.

1. Information is out there for anyone to see. Of course you don’t want to leave credit card statements lying around in public places, and when you discard your financial paperwork, it’s smart to run it through a shredder. But sometimes when you’re out in the world, your information can’t help but become a little exposed. You type a PIN number onto a pad and realize someone might have been looking over your shoulder. You hand your credit card to a waiter, who disappears for a while with it. Or you’re in a crowded store, practically rubbing elbows with an identity thief.

Sarah Dugo, co-founder of College Savings Dolls, got an unwanted education on identity theft when she was at a crowded Best Buy and bought a big-screen TV for the Super Bowl.

“The cashier took my credit card and delivery information, but they left it all on the computer screen and walked away from the check-out area. I was at one of the checkouts in the smaller section of the store, not the main front exit,” Dugo says.

It turns out that the thief used Dugo’s credit card information to order the same big-screen TV – and had it sent to his address. “That’s how they caught him,” Dugo says. Still, the crook did enough damage to her credit report and credit score that it took two years for her to straighten it all out.

She was in one of those situations where the employee ringing her up was interrupted by a customer before finishing her transaction. Dugo isn’t positive, but she thinks that’s how someone was able to see her information and either jot everything down or snap a photo of the computer screen.

Dugo isn’t sure what she could have done differently, but she figures that if she is ever shopping on another crowded weekend, she may make her purchase at the main entrance, where department sales clerks aren’t likely to be pulled away from the register.

2. You put your wallet or handbag in a vulnerable position. “Several years ago, I was shopping at a Safeway near my house. I was in the shampoo aisle and a well-dressed man asked me to help him find a product his wife asked him to get,” says Caren Kagan Evans, CEO of ECI Communications. While Evans pointed to the top shelf to show him where the product was, another man took Evans’ wallet out of her handbag, which was in the top part of her cart.

“I didn’t realize my wallet had been stolen until I went to check out,” Evans says. “I ran home, contacted the credit agencies, contacted my bank and of course contacted my credit card companies.”

Unfortunately, her Social Security Number was printed on her health insurance card, so the thief now had that information as well.

“This was a large group of people that were doing this kind of thing up and down the East Coast,” she says. “In a matter of just an hour, the team had used my cards at gas stations, Target, and other locations. They also were able to get checks printed since they had my social, and thousands of dollars disappeared from my checking account.”

Evans says she was lucky because she got her money back and was able to fix everything relatively quickly. “I have heard stories of people who had their identities stolen where the perpetrator took out mortgages on properties, and stories of people who literally spent years getting everything straightened out,” she says.

As for where Evans went wrong, she says it is easy to look at the situation now and realize her handbag was vulnerable. It was in the top part of the cart, and she was never planning on leaving it out of her sight. So you could take away from this story that you should never trust a stranger, even one who simply wants some help finding shampoo – or, better yet, remember to keep your eye on your purse or wallet since somebody else otherwise will.

Evans also says she no longer signs her credit card receipts, reasoning that a thief can study the receipt and later fake her signature. Sales clerks don’t push her to sign for merchandise, she says – they’ll just ask to see her identification. “And when they do, I thank them,” Evans says. “I appreciate it.”

burglar-for-identity-theft-small3. You trusted someone a little too much. Everyone knows the importance of vetting people who work for you, and yet you can never say it enough.

Arthur Gregory is a serial entrepreneur. He’s a partner in two restaurants and owns The printer who made his menus overheard Gregory tell a colleague that he was looking for a bookkeeper.

“I do that,” the printer said. And Gregory, who liked how his menus were made, figured he’d give him the job.

As it turns out, the man was trustworthy when it came to menus, but not when it came to bookkeeping. “He stole my identity,” Gregory says.

And he didn’t just go out to a department store and buy things in Gregory’s name. He took out corporate credit cards in Gregory’s name and tried to take over his business, contacting vendors and doing a ton of damage. He now keeps all of his personal information in a lock box, so not even his current bookkeeper can see it.

Gregory, unfortunately, is also a case study in why it’s impossible to prevent identity theft. Even if you were willing to live out the rest of your life on a deserted island or in a cave to wall yourself off from problems, you could still discover you’re already a victim of identity theft.

As you can see, identity theft is an immense problem throughout the world and only becoming more and more frequent. As previously stated, there is no way to completely prevent identity theft, but there are certainly ways to minimize your risk and protect your finances.To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today.

Article source courtesy of Geoff Williams of US News.