Identity Theft: Common Causes & How To Recognize It

A mysterious person in a hood.

Identity theft or identity fraud is when a thief steals your personal information and attempts to misuse it. Criminals may make purchases using your debit/credit card or open a new account with your social security number. They may also try to obtain a loan using your personal information. One of the best ways to stop thieves—and keep your cards, personal information and social security number safe—is by using identity (ID) monitoring services.

Common Causes Of Identity Theft

How does identity theft happen?

Stolen Or Lost Personal Documents

A passport and driver’s license are all examples of personal documents that should be kept well-hidden to prevent their information from falling into the wrong hands. Most of the time, a criminal gets ahold of the data by stealing a document or picking it up when you lose it. Other methods of identity theft include stealing your mail and obtaining your bank account numbers.

Unsecured Online Data

Because consumers use the internet for practically everything these days, unsecured online data has become an extremely common way to steal sensitive information. Using personal information, like credit card numbers or your social security number, during a transaction increases the risk of identity theft. Weak passwords or using the same password for multiple websites also endangers your information.

Data Breaches

In a data breach, criminals hack into a company’s system to obtain consumers’ personal data. Unfortunately, there’s not much consumers can do to prevent this type of theft.

How To Know If An Identity Theft Has Happened

Remain vigilant about your documents and internet usage, and look for these red flags:

Via Personal Banking

  • Calls, emails or letters from your bank notifying you of possible fraud or expenditures through your account that you didn’t make
  • Suspicious withdrawals on your bank statement or charges on your credit cards that you haven’t made
  • Your credit/loan interest increases because of unknown credit activity
  • A credit card report shows new accounts using your name and other personal information
  • You are denied rental applications or credit even though your credit record has always been strong and clean

Via Mail and Telephone

  • Not receiving mail or bills
  • Receiving bills for services you don’t use
  • Debtors calling you for bills that aren’t yours
  • A bank letter about an account you never opened


  • The IRS informs you that more than one tax return was filed under your name
  • You receive tax documents from employers you never worked for
  • Your social security statement shows error reports

Health Insurance

  • Your health plan rejects a medical claim because you’ve reached the maximum payout
  • You’re unable to receive coverage under a new plan because the medical record lists a condition you don’t have
  • You get treatment advice and suggestions for health conditions you don’t have

Identity Theft Monitoring in NC

It pays to be aware of the signs of ID theft. Learn more about identity theft and how to prevent it from one of North Carolina’s best financial institutions, F&M Bank.