Only last year, Equifax suffered a data breach that compromised the personal information of 143 million consumers. The hackers also stole the credit card details of more than 200,000 people. The credit reference agency says that few owners have since checked their credit scores, meaning that further breaches may have occurred.
Even more astonishingly, in December, Marriott revealed that the sensitive data belonging to over 320 million guests around the world had been hacked into, with data including names and passport numbers stolen during the attack. The company now faces legal action and its shares dropped sharply when the news was released.
There have been numerous incidents like this over the past year. Attacks have been mounted on businesses of all sizes and in all industries.
Even the biggest firms have shown that they are not always able to withstand data thefts from cybercriminals, and many people affected may not even realize that their personal and sensitive information has been stolen.
So how can you find out if someone has managed to secure your personal information? If you’re asking “how to check if someone is using my identity,” then you’re not alone! Our guide will tell you what to do.
How to check if your identity has been stolen
You need to know that you are the only person out in cyberspace! Hackers can use your data to set up fake accounts – from social media profiles through to bank loans or credit cards. Want to know how to check if your identity has been stolen? We can tell you how.
Stay in the know
If you’re asking how to check if someone is using my identity, then that’s the first important step in protecting yourself. Figures suggest that around a billion people’s records across the world may have been compromised in the last decade alone.
It’s not possible to manage the way that companies hold data about you, but you can take your own precautions to safeguard your identity.
Limit your accounts
The more accounts that you hold, the more “touchpoints” a cybercriminal has to attempt to steal your data and identity. So limit accounts that you set up using your National Insurance (NI) number and/or credit cards. By keeping a limit on these accounts, you will minimize your digital identity footprint.
Check your statements
Once you have your strategy in place for limiting accounts going forward, you need to analyze your bank and credit card statements. This is a vital means of how to find out if someone stole your identity and used it to set up an account or use your credit cards in any way.
Look out for suspicious activity and then contact your card or bank account provider immediately. They will put a block on your account while the issue is investigated.
Banks and other financial institutions provide plenty of information detailing ways of how to know if your personal information has been compromised. Make sure you understand their policies, as you will be expected to play a role in ensuring that any cybercrime using your data is stopped as soon as it is discovered.
Make a report
If you spot a transaction that you don’t remember, query it. Your provider can usually provide additional information. Look for places that you never visited, retailers that you aren’t familiar with, sums of money that you wouldn’t spend and so forth.
Spend time on this as the only way to of how to find out if someone stole your identity and accessed your financial information is to trawl through your records.
You may need to file a police report to get a crime reference number. You will also need to change your password immediately for the account and, where offered, opt to have two-stage authentication added to the account to make it even more secure.
What happens after my personal information is stolen?
Use the new card
After you have made your report and carried out the steps above, your bank will send you a new replacement card. Use this to switch over any accounts linked to you to the new card and update your payment methods.
Check your credit report
Credit agencies offer free credit checks and it’s well worth running one every quarter. Look for digital reports that allow you to see the information held about you. If your score seems inaccurate or particularly low, your data may have been stolen.
Get in touch with your credit bureau if that’s the case and flag up the information that you think may be incorrect.
The next step in this instance is to submit a formal dispute in writing and provide evidence that supports your belief that your credit score is incorrect. Contact the credit reference agency for further advice.
Make a credit application
Another way to know if you have been a victim of data theft is to apply for a form of credit. If your application is denied, it may suggest that your information has been stolen if you otherwise have a strong credit history.
Even if you are approved, then don’t take this as a cast-iron guarantee that your data is safe. It could be that the thief hasn’t yet taken full advantage of your credit and may yet do so!
If your application is rejected, contact the provider for further details. Check back through your application to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes. Try once again if necessary as sometimes a second application is accepted. If you can get the card, but don’t actually want to use it, don’t activate the card and then destroy it.
If your application remains rejected and you don’t understand why, file a police report with clear reasons for your suspicions. If an individual with good credit can’t get a credit card, then it can often be because of identity theft.
Monitor your post and emails
Always keep a close eye on mail or emails from your financial providers. If you tend to read hard copy mail, check your emails and vice versa. Be vigilant. If you see something strange, don’t assume it’s just junk mail.
Also be mindful of any expected mail and statements that you don’t receive. if your identity is stolen you might actually see less mail overall because it is going elsewhere. Similarly, if you start to get mail that is addressed to someone else, this could be an early indication that fraud is taking place.
Now that you’ve learned how to know if your personal information has been compromised, you should follow these steps above on a regular basis. Be vigilant, careful and always on the alert. Data theft is already a far-reaching problem and it’s only set to get worse as hackers become smarter, faster and increasingly ambitious. Don’t be a victim!