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Retailers should inform customers about ID theft warning signs

Jan 29, 2014 Dave King

With the recent data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus, Americans may be more concerned than ever about identity theft. As a result, consumers could be reluctant to shop in stores and online out of fear that they could become a victim of this crime.

Retailers can take all the necessary steps to prevent a breach, but there is always a chance that one will occur.

"Every company, no matter how good their security team and no matter how strong their security technology, has something valuable these thieves want - and they will get it," Theresa Payton, CEO of Fortalice, a digital security company, told TODAY. "It's not a matter of will they get in; it's what happens to your data once they get in."

To ensure that customers aren't scared about shopping at their stores, retailers would be wise to provide customers with the necessary information to understand the potential warning signs of identity theft, including:

Purchases people didn't pay for appearing on statements: One of the most obvious signs of identity theft is when people begin seeing purchases they didn't make on credit and bank statements, according to TODAY. While this could just be a mistake, there is a greater chance someone has obtained the consumer's card information and is charging items to their account. As soon as these charges appear, people need to call their bank to see what the next step is. More often than not, banks will put a hold on the card and issue a new one.

Errors on credit reports: Many people don't check their credit reports often enough and could be missing out on potential signs of identity theft. According to U.S. News & World Report, any accounts opened by criminals in a person's name will appear on their credit report. With the three major bureaus required to provide a free copy of this document each year, people should be checking their credit report at least three times a year. Failure to do so could result in identity theft going on for a long period of time before they notice.

Unknown credit card statements showing up in the mail: When identity thieves open accounts in another person's name, the statements have to show up somewhere if they don't opt for paperless statements. In certain cases, the criminal could be careless, and have these documents sent to the person they defrauded, which is a major sign of identity theft. People could easily brush this off as a mistake by the bank, but consumers who get a statement for an account they didn't open shouldn't take this lightly. Generally, this means that someone has stolen their personal information, and people who receive such a statement should contact that bank or credit card provider to inform them this account is fraudulent.

A credit application is denied: People who have good credit may not think much about applying for a new card or loan. However, if that application is denied, there is a good chance they have been a victim of identity theft. Banks and lenders will generally provide the reason why the application was denied, which could offer identity theft clues. Someone who has a credit score higher than 700 and is declined for a new credit card may want to consider pulling a copy of their credit report to see if there is any information that could indicate identity theft. The thing people shouldn't do is ignore this, as it could lead the theft to go undiscovered.