How many online accounts do you have right now? Consider not just your email, social media, bank accounts, credit cards and insurance, but your streaming services, utilities companies, retail store loyalty cards, online shopping sites, that old blog you forgot about from 5 years ago … It would be nearly impossible to keep track of every account you’ve ever opened unless you’ve been diligent about closing them and deleting historical data. Even then, there’s no guarantee that the company or organization itself doesn’t still have your personal info stored in their archives.
What makes it even riskier is that most of us reuse the same passwords on multiple sites. This means that if one of your accounts is hacked or there is a data breach at your school, workplace or favorite store, thieves could cascade through your financial life like an avalanche — not only causing you inconvenience in the moment, but potential long-term effects to your credit report, damaging your financial reputation for years to come.
If there’s one (sort of) silver lining, it’s that we are all in this together. Millions of Americans each year are victims of identity theft. The government, social media sites and large online companies are working hard to come up with better ways to protect our data. Until then, you are your own best protection. No one is better equipped than you to guard your own identity.
Here are 5 signs your identity might have been stolen.
- Purchases you didn’t make. Regularly check your bank statements, credit cards and online accounts for anything you don’t recognize. It’s far more likely now for thieves to take over your existing accounts (such as Amazon) than it is for them to steal your actual credit card.