When buying a home or an automobile your credit rating is very important. So protecting your identity is one of those things you should make an issue about in your daily plans. There are several common ways that ID theft is carried out, these include Dumpster Diving; Skimming, Phishing, Change your address and old fashioned stealing.
Dumpster diving is self explanatory. Skimming is where a special storage device steals your credit card number when you use it. Phishing is where you are encouraged through emails or pop up software to reveal your personal information. Changing your address causes your bills to be diverted to another address. Stealing is simply what it says, wallets and purses, mail that includes bank and credit card details, pre-approved credit offers, new checks and tax information, these can be obtained through bribery and theft from large corporations that hold your information as well.
Protect your information, shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before throwing them away. Don't carry your social security number in your wallet or write it on a check. Ask if you can give another identifier. Do not give out personal information on the phone, through the Internet or mail unless you know who you are dealing with. Never click on links in unsolicited emails, always go to the website of banks, etc. Use firewalls, spy ware and anti virus software to protect your home computer and keep them up to date. You can go to OnguardOnline.govfor information. Don't use obvious passwords like birth-dates, mother's maiden name or the last 4 digits of your social security number. also keep your personal information somewhere safe and secure, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your home.
You also want to be alert to signs that require immediate attention, for example bills not arriving that you are expecting, unexpected credit cards or account statements, a denial of credit for no known reason and calls or letters about purchases you have not made. Make sure you get copies of and inspect your credit report. You can do this by going to AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to order free credit reports each year, this is organized and run by the three credit reporting agencies Equifax, TransUnion and Experian who are required by law to give you a free copy of your credit report each year if you ask for it. Also look over financial statements carefully and look for charges you have not made.
If you suspect ID theft take action at once, a strong defense may be your best weapon. Call the police and file a report as creditors may want proof of the crime.
Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports and review the reports carefully. You can call any of the three credit reporting companies and place an initial 90-day fraud alert, a call to one company is sufficient.
- Equifax 1-800-525-6285
- Experian 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
Placing a fraud alert entitles you to a free copy of your credit report. Look for inquiries from companies you have not contacted, accounts you did not open, and any debts on your accounts you cannot explain.
Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently, or that you have not used in a long time.
- Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account has been opened or changed without your authority. Follow up in writing with copies of supporting documents.
- Use the ID Theft affidavit at ftc.gov/idtheft to support your written statement.
- Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
- Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. This report helps law enforcement agencies in their investigations across the country. You can do this in one of three ways:
- Online ftc.gov/idtheft
- By phone 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY 1-866-653-4261
- By mail Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade commission, Washington DC20580
So take action today to protect your information and to keep it safe from prying eyes and fingers.
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