According to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research, 14.4 million Americans fell victim to identity theft in 2018.
Perhaps, you were one of these 14.4 million people. Of course, you know that you are a victim of identity theft when you get that courtesy call or email from a bank or credit card issuer, but is there a way you can tell that you’ve been hacked before that moment?
There are several signs of cybercrime or identity theft that you should watch out for, especially, during the global Coronavirus pandemic. Below, we’ve outlined what you should watch out for including signs your identity has been stolen and scams to be aware of.
There are definite warning signs of cybercrime
The first step to avoiding identity theft is to know what the warning signs are. This will help you to detect identity theft early and might save you money and headaches in the future. If you notice any of the following conditions, pay attention.
In general, warning signs will include anything out of the ordinary when it comes to your finance. This will include strange communications, any irregularities on your credit report, a sudden surge in robocalls, and more. While it can be difficult to know what is an irregularity during times of volatility, you should check your bank statements and credit report regularly to get a good grasp of what is normal. Then, you will be able to identify when something is out of place.
Coronavirus related scams
Unfortunately, some scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic to target people. It is important to note that a credit reporting bureau will not call you and that you will never have to pay for any services related to your credit score. Therefore, do not respond to calls, texts, emails, or other communications regarding the economic stimulus, vaccines, or other COVID-19 related services.
Some scammers are also calling to get donations for what they say are Coronavirus related charities. Do not send any donations via cash, gift card, or wiring money. Do not give out your account information over the phone or electronically and do plenty of research before making any donations. If you believe you are being targeted by a scam, report it to the FBI or the IRS.
You receive emails about logins to your accounts
If you receive an email that says someone tried logging in to your account or that someone logged in to your account from a different location, take it seriously. These emails are designed to alert you when someone has found your password and may be trying to commit a cybercrime.
Even if someone is logging in to an account that is not linked to your credit card, they may have other personal information. It is wise to change your passwords often and to ensure that they are complex so that they are difficult for scammers to obtain.
Odd little charges appear on your credit card
Of course, when you see a big charge on your credit card, it can be a giveaway that someone is scamming you. However, criminals might first make some little charges. This often happens when more sophisticated identity thieves buy or obtain credit or debit card numbers through syndicates or online forums (they do exist).
The real danger with these small charges is that if you do not catch them, it will look like you have done business with them in the past. It will then be more difficult to prove to your credit card company that this is a scam and therefore harder to get this money back. Additionally, if they have your credit card information, they may have other information about you. You should review your credit card statements at least once a month.
You stop getting credit or debit card statements
If you stop getting credit or debit card statements, it might mean that a thief has changed your billing address. If they have tampered with your account in this way, then they likely have other personal information about you and are armed with the information necessary to steal your identity.
It is important to know when your bills arrive and to review them regularly. If you are self-isolating away from your mailing address during Coronavirus or not able to get your mail, you may want to change to online billing so that you can review your statements online. Being aware of what is normal on your statements will help you to identify if there are any fishy irregularities on them.
Unexpected packages show up at your home or office
While it may be great to get something unexpected delivered to your doorstep, this should be a warning sign. If you receive a package that you didn’t order, it could be a sign of identity theft. If the thief was sloppy, they may have used your credit card to order something but failed to change the shipping address associated with your card. Then, the item would be delivered to your house. If you receive an unexpected package, check your credit or debit card statement immediately.
You start to get weird calls and emails
It is normal to get spam to your inbox occasionally, and many robocallers make false debt collection calls. However, if you notice a sudden surge in these unwarranted calls or emails, it may be a sign of cybercrime.
These are particularly prevalent during COVID-19. If a caller states that they are with the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or another government agency, do not give them any information. Additionally, there are myriad face coronavirus update emails, texts, and other alerts. Do not share any medical information with these phishing or vishing scams.
Your loan apps get rejected
Your credit score can plunge due to a thief’s extravagance and nonchalance. If you can’t get a loan or your credit report shows a plunging score, something may be up.
Many people are taking advantage of the low-interest rates during coronavirus to refinance their loans. While it is completely legitimate to want to refinance your debt, don’t get taken by surprise if your loan application gets denied. Keep a keen eye on your credit report each month and look at it before applying for a loan to be sure that you have not been a victim of cybercrime.
Some people steal personal information to hide from creditors – report it
Some identity thieves never progress to shopping sprees or draining bank balances. They have other goals in mind, just as ignoble. For example, some scammers call, text, or email under a falsely noble premise such as asking to put your information on a registry or promising to notify you when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. However, they will likely put your address or phone number on assorted financial, federal, and state documents for purposes of evasion as well as future opportunities.
If you suspect this may be happening, file a police report. You may have to be persistent about this but do it. You should also contact any affiliated banks, businesses, and governmental agencies that investigate fraud and cyber crimes. If you suspect Social Security fraud, you should contact the Office of the Inspector General. If you are the victim of mail fraud, get in touch with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. If you suspect some type of vehicle fraud, contact the fraud investigator at your local BMV.
The Bottom Line
You can reduce your risk of identity theft simply by being aware of what your credit score and financial documents should look like. You should educate yourself on scams regularly, but also be aware of situational scams. Right now, we are seeing a lot of coronavirus related scams that act under the guise of helping citizens find the best resources for them during the global pandemic.
A good rule of thumb is to not give out any information to callers, emailers, or other supposed agencies that contact you. Instead, to plenty of research, and look to government agencies for information when you have questions.