Identity Theft Prevention - There's Only One You, so Protect Your Identity!
Whatever you do, make sure you avoid identity theft! Believe me, it's something you don't want to experience.
Many years ago, without my knowledge, some of my personal papers were accidently thrown out. As a result, my identity was stolen and it was a nightmare. It took me about a year to get things straightened out
What's the big deal about identity theft?
Identify theft can be devastating because it affects more than just your money. You might have to deal with problems like:
‣ Money could be stolen from your bank account.
‣ Your credit score could be ruined.
‣ You could have difficulty opening bank accounts.
‣ You may get annoying calls from collection companies.
Who would want to steal my identity anyway?
First of all you should know that the person stealing your personal information is usually someone you know:
How can I prevent identity theft?
1. Secure your mail.
- Use a locking mailbox and remove incoming mail immediately.
- Put outgoing mail in an actual postal mailbox rather than leaving it in your mailbox at home.
- Shred any mail that has account numbers or "pre-approved"credit card offers.
- Make sure your trash is in an area that is not easy to access.
2. Secure your personal identifying information.
- Be careful with your Social Security number. Don't give it out unles it is absolutely necessary.
- Don't carry your social security card or number in your purse or wallet.
- Shred any documents that contain your Social Security number and other personal information if you don't need them anymore. Don't just throw them in the trash.
- Write down all your account numbers and keep the list in a safe place so you can easily access the information when you need it.
3. Secure whatever you use for making payments.
- Make sure that all your Personal identification numbers (PIN's), credit cards, debit cards, checks, and their account numbers are secure and not accessible by friends, relatives, or neighbors.
- Shred documents with financial information, like account numbers, rather than just throwing them in the trash.
4. Secure your computer.
- Use an anti-virus program and keep it updated.
- Use an anti-spyware software program.
- Never respond to emails asking for sensitive information or click on links in such emails.
- Don't click on links in emails claiming to have pictures, or the "latest twist" about one of the major stories of the day. You could get a virus and they could track and log your keyboard strokes.
- Don't save your passwords on your computer.
What should I do if my identity is stolen?
- Contact at least one of the credit reporting agencies and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit reports (experian.com,transunion.com, equifax.com).Having a fraud alert on your credit reports notifies potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name.
- If you live in a State that allows you to place a "security freeze" on your credit report, do so. This will prevent the credit bureaus from providing your credit reports to anyone without your approval (with a few exceptions).
Contact the credit bureau to find out if your state allows a security freeze. There could be a small fee for this service.
- Get copies of all three of your credit reports and examine them carefully. Look for new accounts the identity thief may have opened, new credit inquiries, and misuse of existing accounts like unpaid balances on your credit cards.You are entitled to one free copy of each of your credit reports if your identity has been stolen. However, you should continue to monitor your credit reports for several months.You can do this by subscribing to a credit monitoring service like privacyguard.com
- Report the identity theft to your local police department and get a copy of the police report. You will need a copy of the police report to provide to the credit bureaus and your creditors.
- Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Go tohttp://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ or call 877-438-4338 and complete the Identity Theft Affidavit form. You will need a copy of this form when dealing with your creditors.
- Notify all your credit card issuers, banks, and utility companies about your identity theft. Ask them to close your old accounts and open new accounts with new account numbers.
- Close any unfamiliar new accounts. If you notice any new credit or utility accounts on your report, call the issurer or provider and have them to close the accounts immediately.
- Call the Social Security Administration. Contact the Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov or 800-269-0271 if you feel your social security number is being used by someone else.
- Keep Detailed Records. Make sure you keep a record of all your communications with creditors and credit bureaus, etc., including dates, who you spoke with and what they told you.
Taking these steps should help to make it a little easier to deal with identity theft. However, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to do whatever you can to prevent it in advance and find out about it quickly should it occur.
Also, you can get a copy of all three credit bureau reports and credit scores monthly.
It's well worth it. After all, there's only one you; so, protect your identity!