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Identity theft. Everyone worries about it these days, especially as the number of large data breaches increase.
Some people now turn to identity theft protection companies to monitor their financial information. But this isn't necessary -- you can implement an identity theft protection plan by yourself. But to that, you first need to know how to spot identity theft.
Here are some of the tell-tale signs:
1. You get bills for credit cards you didn't open. Or for purchases you didn't make. If you receive letters about these strange cards and purchases, or even phone calls from debt collectors, there's a good chance you have had your identity stolen. It only takes a social security number to open a card.
2. You notice strange charges. Sometimes these credit or debit card purchases are simple mix-ups. Other times, they're evidence of fraud. Monitor your monthly statements and consider setting up alerts for purchases over a set amount.
3. You don't get your mail. If you're missing a bill, the Federal Trade Commission urges you to call your creditor. A thief could have changed the address or stolen the letter. The same goes for other mail, such as medical documents, that could list your social security number.
4. Suddenly bad credit. If you're denied great interest rates or a loan, pull up your credit report. If there's any inaccurate information, it may be time to add a fraud alert and start closing accounts.
Identifying fraud early is the first step in any good identity theft protection plan. So stay vigilant and make the monitoring of your financial data routine.