How do you react when someone mispronounces your name or calls you by another name? It’s so annoying, right? What if someone takes a loan from the bank using your name? Or run out of your credit limit that you have no idea about? Scary isn’t it?

Identity theft is the most common cyber threat that is growing enormously. According to the 2017 Identity Fraud study, a record 15.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft; an increase of more than 2 million victims over the previous year.

So what exactly is identity theft?

It is illegally obtaining personal information from someone that defines their identity, such as address, social security number, date of birth, Aadhar number, credit card number, bank details, etc. Now, a cybercriminal can manipulate and misuse information in as many ways as they want.

How do you know when you have been victimized?

The biggest concern about identity threats is that people often realize it much later. If you think your identity has been stolen, instead of sitting around stunned, you should be proactive in understanding the warning signs and avoiding serious financial or reputational damage.

Here are some signs that your identity has been stolen:

1. Error on bank or credit card statements:

Do not ignore any unauthorized transaction no matter how small the amount. This can be a clue before you trade a large amount of money. The trick is aimed at testing the account if a charge will be made. Every major bank allows its customers to track their spending instantly online or through a dedicated smartphone app. Therefore, any suspicious activity on your account should not be neglected anyway. Don’t expect a monthly statement, regularly check your credit reports and all your financial accounts to spot fraud as quickly as possible.

2. Not receiving invoices and emails:

Follow up with your creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. “Identity thieves will steal victims’ mail and, in some cases, change their mailing address through the post office to a fraudulent address they’ve set up,” says security consultant Robert Siciliano. This could be an indication that an identity thief has intruded.

3. Receive invoices for purchases you did not make:

Thieves can buy goods or take advantage of services in your name and deplete your credit limit. If you start receiving bills or late payment notices that you have no idea about, someone may have stolen your identity for financial gain. Pay attention to your incoming and outgoing bills and statements both in your inbox and in your mailbox. If this happens, you should tell your creditor that you have been a victim of identity theft and that it is not your debt. Also, file a police report to avoid further prosecution.

4. Rejected tax return:

If this happens, you have more reason to worry. An identity thief might have filed a tax return in her name to get away with a fraudulent return. While filing your taxes, if you receive a notice that a filing has already been filed with your social security number or your return is rejected even when there are no typos and your social security number is absolutely correct, then there is a high probability that that your identity has been compromised.

5. Data security issue reported by your employer:

It’s not a big problem for hackers to know about your current or former employer, thanks to social media. If someone gets your social security number and the name of your current employer, then it’s not very difficult for them to collect unemployment benefits in their name. In that case, someone from HR might tell you about it.

6. Receive a two-factor authentication alert:

We often set up a two-factor authentication alert for our individual account. If you receive text messages with a six-digit PIN to enter to take advantage of a service or membership you don’t recognize, watch out! Sign out of that account and change the password immediately. Change any passwords that might be linked to that email on other sites.

7. Credit Score Increase:

A rising credit score can also be a red flag for identity theft. “Check your credit reports frequently for unopened accounts and tough inquiries that could suggest scammers are trying to extend credit in your name,” advises Ralph Rodriguez, Confirm.io’s CTO. You may receive phone requests for expensive items due to high activity on your account.

Most cyber attacks aim to steal financial data and email credentials. But the hijacking of social media accounts is just as terrifying. Circulating private photos and videos all over the Internet is a source of public embarrassment.

If you become a victim of this identity theft, take immediate action:

• Discover the origin of the theft. Try to remember your online activities that could have led to the theft; any strange attachments you opened, downloaded suspicious software/application, signed up for an e-commerce site, used your credit card to sign up for a new website, etc.

• Change password immediately

• Contact one of the credit reporting agencies’ fraud alert departments and place a fraud alert on your credit report.

• Inform your lenders, banks and insurance companies explaining the situation

• Report to the police. This is the proof of the crime. Credit reporting agencies would investigate further based on this report.

• Check if your computer has been affected by the virus. If your identity has been compromised by a virus or malware, it may still be hiding on your computer and attacking again. Run an up-to-date antivirus program or seek the advice of cyber security experts.

These are the dangers of living in a digitally connected world. All we have to do is keep our senses open and act proactively to fight against all these threats.