Top Signs You May Have Been a Victim of ID Theft

Top Signs You May Have Been a Victim of ID Theft
By Lita Epstein, credit and debt expert, WalletPop.com

When even the announcer of the The Price Is Right is a victim of identity theft, you know the crime can happen to anyone. Rich Fields, of "Come on down" fame, reportedly had $71,000 stolen and had to freeze his accounts ' including his direct deposit of his pay -- while he tries to recover the money. At least he got wise to the problem.

One of the scariest things about identity theft is that you could be a victim and not even know it. Identity theft includes any act in which your identity is used fraudulently. I'm sure you've head of credit card fraud, where someone opens an account in your name or uses your credit card number without your permission. But other common identity theft scams include bank account fraud, phone or utilities fraud, government documents fraud and Social Security fraud.

In this feature, we list four red flags that can signal that you are a victim of identity theft.

First Up: Red Flag No. 1



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Your credit cards or other bills don't arrive when you expect them.

A thief could have changed your address with a financial institution and started using your credit card. Since the bills are no longer coming to your address, it will take longer for you to figure out the problem. Most financial institutions allow you to look at your accounts online. Do so regularly to avoid this problem. If you see charges you don't recognize, call your bank's customer service line immediately.

Next: Red Flag No. 2



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You start to receive credit cards for accounts you didn't open yourself.

A thief may have responded to a credit card offer using your name and credit history and been planning to intercept the card from your mailbox.

Don't hesitate one second. Call the financial institution that issued the card immediately and explain that the account was opened fraudulently.

Next: Red Flag No. 3



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You are denied credit even though you know you have a good credit history.

Whenever you are denied credit -- for whatever reason -- you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports from each of the three top credit reporting agencies; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. As part of that denial, you should get a letter that tells you how to obtain those free credit reports. Take advantage of this law and review your credit report to see what the problem is. If you find fraudulent accounts on your report, follow the instructions that explain how to get them removed.

Next: Red Flag No. 4



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You get a call from a store about a purchase you know you didn't make.

If you do get this type of call, don't give out any information because the call could be a phishing attempt (that's when thieves pretend to be calling or emailing from a store or bank in hopes you will disclose personal financial information ' like your Social Security number or bank account password).

Find out as many details about the purchase as you can, as well as the caller's name and contact information. Look up a contact number yourself. Call the company after you've checked it out. Only after you know the company is legitimate should you give out any personal information. Then, call your credit card company and let them know that your card was used fraudulently.

Next: Here's What to Do If You Are a Victim



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Any time you suspect fraud you should place a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies. They will place a 90-day alert on your account, which can be extended. They will also send you a copy of your report to be sure there aren't other problems. These are the contact numbers to report fraud:

' Equifax - 1-800-525-6285
' Experian - 1-888-397-3742
' TransUnion - 1-800-680-7289

You can never err by being too cautious. It's better to report a possible fraud attempt and be wrong, than not to report one and allow a problem to continue to grow and fester.



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