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used with permission from Norton by Symantec, by Christina Schubert

identity-theft-signsAn estimated 11.7 million people are victims of identity theft each year. It is a growing crime and it is expected to grow more with each passing year.

There is a big demand for stolen identities in the underground economy. Criminal outfits specializing in identity theft will go to any lengths to get their hands on your information.

So what do these thieves do with your information?

Your personal information in the hands of these criminals means you are putting your finances and your reputation at risk.

It takes less than 30 seconds for a criminal to drain your bank account. They can run up your credit cards, open new credit card accounts, get medical treatment, the list goes on.

Sometimes a thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In extreme cases, a criminal can give your name to the police during an arrest. All these crimes show up long after a lot of damage has been made.

There are some clues that show up when your identity has been stolen.

1. Your bank statement doesn’t look right or your checks bounce.

Even a small error on your bank account or credit card is a red flag. Criminals are known to make small charges and test the account to see if a charge will go through. View your accounts regularly online and contact your bank if you notice any suspicious charges.

2. Your bills are missing or you receive mysterious bills.

Identity thieves steal the victim’s mail by changing their mailing address via the Post Office. They gather information and piece them together to open new accounts in your name. Sometimes they may purchase goods in your name and max out your credit card. It’s advisable to keep track of all your bills and bank correspondence.

3. You get calls from debt collectors.

It is likely that someone has used your name to rack up debts if creditors are hounding you about unpaid bills you know nothing about. Check your credit report for unfamiliar accounts or charges.

4. Your medical bill doesn’t add up.

Medical identity theft is a growing crime. If you get a medical bill for a service you didn’t use or your medical claim is rejected because you have already reached your benefits limit, it is likely something is not right. Sometimes your medical records show a condition you don’t have and yet it shows that you have received treatment for it.

5. A note from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name.

Tax fraud is big business. Criminals have found sneakier ways to cash in on your tax refund. If there is something pointing to identity theft, you will receive a mail from the IRS.

Sometimes people with compromised identity don’t get these telltale signs of identity theft. They can go for years without a clue while someone out there is ruining their credit history.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to accomplish comprehensive security. For all your digital security needs Norton Security is a reliable and trusted source.