Identity theft is big business. Last year over 15 million Americans were victims of identity theft, and if you have been paying attention you know data theft is exploding globally, especially so in the U.S. According to an Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, since 2011 identity thieves have stolen $107 billion from U.S. consumers.

African-American consumers are as vulnerable as any other Americans to identity theft, and many data breaches are not reported for days and even months sometimes. Law enforcement will ask the company not to publicly disclose the breach as part of the investigation. So, as I always say, your cyber security is your responsibility.

How do you know if your identity has been stolen? The bottom line is that you have to be on the lookout for not only the obvious signs but subtle clues as well. Don’t expect banks or credit card companies to do all the work. Here are some 5 signs of identity theft you need to be alert for.

1. Monitor your mail. Do your bills arrive as usual? This maybe an indication that your identity has been compromised and the thief has changed your mailing address. If bills are late follow up with creditors as soon as possible.

2. You’re turned down for credit. If you apply for credit and denied or you try to increase your credit limit and are rejected without good reason you need to be suspicious.  Take the time to contact the creditor to discuss what the problem is.

3. Mysterious bills for items you didn’t purchase. You should contact the creditor immediately and inform them that you have been a victim of identity theft and it is not your debt. Write letters and keep good records. You need to establish communication and a paper trail to protect yourself.

4. Monitor accounts for fraudulent transactions. Regularly check all your credit accounts for fraud. This includes brokerage accounts. Immediately challenge any charges or changes you cannot identify as yours.  Look for test charges. Thieves will charge a dollar or two on a credit card or debit card to see it if it will go through. Don’t ignore these if you find them.

5. Your taxes. You need to be especially alert in this area.  Millions of African-Americans file their tax returns electronically every year. If your tax return is rejected act immediately! Anytime your taxes are concerned you need to be alarmed.

Now you know.

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