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Posted on January 7, 2015 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

Buoyed by resolutions to start your own business, you apply for a loan — only to find that you’re carrying credit card debt for cards you’ve never used. Or your auto insurance just went way up because of a recent accident, but your car hasn’t left the driveway. What might seem at first to be a clerical error is often much more insidious: Your identity has been breached, and you’ve missed the obvious signs of identity theft.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 16 million U.S. residents are victims of identity theft every year, and the average cost is about $1,500 in direct losses per victim. However, indirect losses — like weeks spent trying to untangle the mess — can drive that cost much higher.

Are you in danger of becoming part of the statistics? Look for these five signs of identity theft:

1. You find erroneous charges on your bank or credit card statements.

Usually, this is the first warning sign of possible identity theft. A statement might list a withdrawal, store charge or online transaction that you don’t recognize. If you check your statements monthly, a thief may have had weeks to rack up charges before you notice.

2. Your accounts get flagged.

When a charge is suspicious enough, you might get a phone call or letter from your bank inquiring about whether you’ve made the transaction. If the question comes over email, be careful — sending fraudulent alerts is another favorite identity thief trick.

3. Bank and credit card statements stop arriving in the mail.

One popular tactic among identity thieves is mail misdirection. If they can access your bank or credit card account online, they can change your address to their own.

4. There’s a warrant out for your arrest.

You get stopped for a burned-out taillight, and suddenly the police officer is asking you to step out of the vehicle. The reason: Someone previously used your identity in a crime, and now your name’s on an arrest warrant. Criminal identity theft occurs when an imposter provides someone else’s name and Social Security number to law enforcement during an arrest. The identity thief might fail to show up in court for the violation, prompting an arrest warrant. Or, the thief might go to court and pay the fine — but you’re still left with a police record as a result.

5. Your insurance won’t cover a medical procedure.

Identity thieves love medical records, because they can bilk insurance companies and Medicare out of money without ever stepping foot in a doctor’s office. But that leaves you in a terrible spot if your identity has been used, because you may find yourself without insurance coverage when you need it.

The signs of identity theft can be subtle or obvious, and some are only caught when they progress to dramatic levels like bill collection or account shutdowns. Although identity theft is widespread, there are ways to protect yourself and your family.

IdentityForce offers identity theft services that can significantly reduce your vulnerability. Just as you’d insure your home or car against theft, you can insure that your personal information doesn’t put you at risk.