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The 2013 Identity Fraud Report from Javelin Strategy & Research, Pleasanton, Calif., revealed that almost one of four consumers who received a data breach letter became a victim of identity theft. The same study revealed that consumers who had their Social Security number compromised in a data breach were five times more likely to be a fraud victim than the average consumer.

How can you tell if your identity has been compromised?

  • Surprise! You’re denied. If your credit card is denied, find out why—especially if you always pay on time and haven’t reached your spending limit. Don’t shrug it off and assume your card will work the next time; investigate immediately.
  • Unexpected increase in an account balance. This could be a sign that someone made changes in your name and went shopping, hoping to leave you with the bill.
  • Unauthorized inquiries. If you see inquiries on your credit reports that you didn’t initiate, that’s a sign someone might be trying to open credit in your name.
  • Sudden drop in credit score. An unexplained drop in your credit score is a sign someone is using—and trashing—your credit.
  • Mysterious new account. The sooner you notice unauthorized accounts opened in your name, the faster you can shut them down.

Bottom line: Review your credit reports regularly. You can order one free credit report a year from each of the “big three” credit reporting agencies—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—at annualcreditreport.com. And keep an eye on your credit score. Finally, contact one of the credit bureau fraud units about placing a fraud alert on your file. For more information about Identity Theft, please visit ftc.gov/identitytheft.

Copyright 2014 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.