Prevent Identity Theft
IDENTITY THEFT ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING CRIMES IN THE U.S.
According to the Federal Trade Commission identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States and worldwide for that matter, with more than 9 million reported crimes in the U.S. alone in 2007, the FTC believes the numbers to be much higher because many cases often go unreported to the proper authorities.
There are 6 steps you must take if you become a victim of identity theft:
- Once you become aware or suspect your identity has been stolen request a free credit report @www.ftc.gov or call 1-877-322-8228.
- Contact the fraud department of one or all three major credit reporting bureaus Equifax @ www.equifax.com Experion @ www.experion.com TransUnion @ www.transunion.com
- Close any accounts that have been breached and alert any remaining open accounts for suspicious activity.
- File a report with local police or where the theft occurred.
- File a complaint with the FTC@ www.consumer.gov/idtheft
- Check your credit report at least once a year for free and read it carefully.
There are precautions you can take to help ensure that you won’t become a victim of identity theft ever again or at all as a rule of thumb, although there are no 100% guarantees, but these suggestions will greatly help to protect you.
First and foremost check your credit report at least once a year and go through it methodically for errors, there are often mistakes on credit reports that may be an indicator of suspicious activity or simply an error that can effect your credit score.
Never give your personal information to anyone, such as your social security number and do not carry it in your wallet except on occasions that you know you will have to present it, and do not use your social security number as a password.
Shred, preferably with a shredder; all correspondence with your name and address, account numbers, banking or financial statements, ATM receipts, anything with account numbers on it including cable, electric, telephone bills etc. that can lead to them identifying your account number for anything related to transactions.
Mail all financial payments from a United States Postal Box or post office do not use your home or private mail slots they can easily be breached and do not carry the same penalties as federal US postal delivery receptacles.
When using your credit card for payment whether it be in a retail outlet, store, gas station, or restaurant know where and with whom your credit card is at all times and make sure you receive all the proper receipts that are due to you, checking the figures carefully. Be aware of “online friends” when you really do not know people you must be very careful not to inadvertently give them personal information that they may use or sell for identity theft.
When making online purchases check with your credit card company to see if they offer free safety online features such as shop safe that make it impossible for an ID thief to access your account information even if the retailer’s data base is breached.
Always use a strong password for all your online accounts and change them often, every 6 months is a good rule of thumb and don’t record them in a file on your computer in case hackers should access your computer files.
And finally make sure you carefully monitor all your credit accounts, methodically and every month and report any inaccuracies immediately. These are all steps you can personally take on your own and guidelines you should diligently follow.
However, you can also take the added step of hiring a credit protection agency that monitors your credit report for you, or take out insurance protection against identity theft fraud.