Identity Theft - Be On The Alert!
Identity Theft Can Wipe You Out!
I am sorry to be so blunt but identity theft is simply something we all must be aware of. Many people who are careful about paying bills on time and having minimal debts are shocked each year to find that they have low credit scores.
Unfortunately this can sometimes be the result of identity theft. This is a crime whereby someone takes your personal information and uses it to pose as you in order to get access to your accounts or identity.
As an example, someone with your PIN numbers can remove small amounts of money from your bank account each month or someone can use your name and personal information to get credit cards in your name and use those credit cards for their own purchases. You get stuck with the large debts and the poor credit score.
To prevent this from happening, always check your account statements carefully each month. Report any suspicious activity or any charges you don't recognize immediately. Also check your credit report regularly and immediately investigate any new credit accounts you do not recognize. These steps are important and procrastination is not an option.
If you find you have been the victim of identity theft, report to the police at once and get a copu of the police report. Send copies of the report to your bank and credit bureaus. Even better, get the credit bureaus to attach the report to your credit report, if you can. Close all your accounts and reopen new ones. Don't allow someone to run around racking up debt on your behalf.
To reiterate, step 1 is to immediately place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review all your credit reports.
Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
There is no need to contact all three companies. Whichever one you call is required by law to contact the other two, which will then place an alert on each of their credit reports as well. If you do not receive a confirmation from a company, you should contact that company directly to place a fraud alert.
Then follow the other steps I noted above of closing suspected accounts and contacting the police. One other step to take is to file a complaint with the FTC. You can use their online complaint form or you can directly call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)
Next you will want to write the Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Be certain you contact the Hotline to update your complaint if you come up with any additional information or find other problems you hadn't caught previously..
Identity theft can be so devastating that I will be expanding this section in hopes you never have to experience the consequences of this crime.
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