What You Need to Know About Identity Theft to Protect Your Credit Report

What is identity theft? Identity theft is when an imposter is using your personal information for his own use. He may be using your name, social security number, credit card, checks, etc. As a result, he’s damaging your credit. Most of the time, your not aware for weeks, or months after.

Noone is immune to identity theft. Rich or poor, it does’nt matter. Your name and social security number can be used to set up an account, for whatever the imposter wants. The Secret Service and the Federal Trade Commission says it’s the fasting growing crime in the U.S. Ten million people per year are victims of id theft, it increased by 87% between 2001-2002, by 79% between 2002-2003. 85% of victims find out about the crime after being denied a credit card or recieving an unknown bill. Id theft is also one of the least convicted crimes in America (under 5% are arrested).

Top ten worse states for id theft:
1. Arizona 6. Florida
2. Nevada 7. New York
3. California 8. Washington
4. Texas 9. Oregon
5. Colorado 10. Illinois

If your a victim of id theft, act quickly. Notify the credit bureaus. There are three that needs to be made aware. When you notify one bureau, it will notify the other two. They will flag your file with a credit alert, creditors will call you first, before giving credit. The three bureaus are: Equifax (800) 525-6285, Experian (888) 397-3742, Trans Union (800) 680-7289. The credit bureaus will mail you your rights as a victim. After recieving your rights, request a free copy of your credit report from each bureau. If you have a police report, you can request to be on fraud alert for up to seven years.

Examine each credit report, check for any discrepancies. If you have fraudulent accounts, report them to the credit bureaus and the credit issuers. Send them a copy of the report. The bureau is required to remove the fraudulent accounts. You will have to continue to check your credit report for discrepancies. Credit issuers don’t always pay attention to fraud alerts, follow up in a few months. Federal law allows you to recieve a second free copy of your credit report. Even if your not a victim of id theft, some states allow you to recieve a free copy yearly.

You should also notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the theft. Provide them with as much information as possible. The FTC is the federal clearinghouse for id theft complaints. They provide victims with information to resolve the problem. Because the FTC is an electronic database, any complaints are available to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials worldwide. FTC Hotline: (877) 438-4338. If debt collectors ask that you pay a fraudulent account, refuse. Tell them you are a victim of id theft and not responsible for the account. Send them a copy of the police report and copies of FTC affidavit. Write a letter explaing the fraud, ask for a return letter resolving the fraud.

When dealing with id theft, prevention is the key. Here are ways to prevent id theft.
1. Check your credit report, yearly. This report provide the early warning signs of id theft.
2. Secure your mail. Some mailboxes have locks or keypads to share only with your post office.
3. Shed your trash. Shedders are an inexpensive purchase for your protection. Some shedders chop your credit cards for you.
4. If you feel one of your accounts have been compromised, change the account number. Any account number can be changed.
5. Keep all forms of identification, that you don’t carry, in a safe location. These forms should’nt be in view, a fireproof box is recommended.
6. Sign the back of your credit card with “see id”. This will prompt the clerk to ask for id before allowing purchases.
7. When ordering new checks, have the bank hold on to them. You can pick them up when your in the bank.
8. Online banking is an excellent way to keep an eye on financial accounts. If your bank offers it, take advantage. If there’s any abnormal activity, you can call your bank immediately.

There are times when individuals have done everything right and still fall prey to id theft. In this case you must stay on top of the situation. Be very organized and keep all copies for yourself. Don’t waste time, contact all companies and address the problem.

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