Everything you Need to Know About Identity Theft

By: Kenneth Kelly

Protecting Your Identity

Identity theft can be one of the most difficult situations to deal with. Often, the ill effects of becoming a victim can last for years. Some of the common problems victims face are:
•Money is fraudulently withdrawn from checking or saving accounts
•Mysterious charges appear on credit card bills
•Credit score is damaged
•Experience difficulty opening new banking or credit card accounts
•Calls from collection agencies
•Ending up with a criminal record in error

Identity theft has been called one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes in America. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, Inc., in 2005, over 9 million people were directly affected with total losses exceeding $56 billion. But it doesn’t stop there. It actually affects everyone due to rising costs from merchants and banks to offset their losses. With identity theft growing to an all time high, it is important to do everything you can to keep yourself from becoming a victim.

Ways To Prevent Identify Theft

While there is no way to 100 percent guarantee that you will not become a victim of identity theft, there are some steps you can take to decrease the likelihood that it will happen to you. Follow the steps below to reduce your chances of becoming a victim:

1.Protect your social security number. The number one way criminals are able to establish credit in your name is by having your social security number. Here are some suggestions to better protect your social security number:
•Do not give your full social security number over the phone (most reputable companies will request only the last 4 digits).
•Do not carry your social security card in your wallet.
•Secure or shred any documents that contain your social security number .
2.Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. Many criminals seek out credit card pre-approval offers by sniffing through their victims’ mailboxes. Here are some suggestions to better protect your mail:
•Put all outgoing mail in an actual post office mailbox instead of your home mailbox.
•If you do leave mail in your home mailbox, avoid putting the flag up.
•Shred any pre-approved credit offer letters.
•Keep trash cans in a location that is viewable by your neighbors.
3.Protect your computer. Do not allow hackers easy access to your personal data on your computer. Here are some suggestions to better protect your email:
•Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software loaded on your computer.
•Make sure you have up-to-date anti-spyware software loaded on your computer.
•Avoid clicking on links or opening emails from unknown senders.
•Never send sensitive information regarding your personal identity within an email.
Ways To Detect Identity Theft
The sooner you discover an incident of abuse, the better. By doing so, you reduce the amount of money that may be stolen and it becomes less difficult to repair the damage. Here are some simple steps to you can take to detect identity theft early:
•Subscribe to an online credit monitoring service. These services send you email alerts when changes occur within your credit file. The service can be very inexpensive, starting as low as $6.95 a month or lower. Most services include some form of 3-in-1 credit monitoring package.
•Read your bank and credit card statements every month to ensure they do not contain any unauthorized charges. If you do not recognize a charge, call your bank or credit card company immediately.
•View your full credit report 2 times a year minimally. Be sure to compare each one to the previous report.

Your Liability

Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone steals and uses your credit card. (Many credit card companies have a benefit in place that actually waves the $50 fee in case you do become a victim.) However, with ATM cards, you could lose up to $500 or more if you do not report any unauthorized transaction to your bank within two business days. If you do report the unauthorized charges within 2 days, you could limit your liability to only $50.

What To Do if You Become A Victim

No matter how many preventative steps you take to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, the unthinkable can still occur. In this situation, follow the list of steps below to quickly repair any credit damage. The faster you do this, the better.

1.Contact at least one of the three credit reporting agencies and request a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. Once the fraud alert is placed on your account, it will automatically be placed on the other two. This fraud alert is good for 90 days and can be extended up to 7 years if a report is filed with the police department. The fraud alert notifies credit granters to confirm requests for credit with you before granting them. At this time you will also be eligible for a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau.
2.Report the identity theft to your police of sheriff’s department and obtain a copy of the police report. Creditors will require the police report when you request to remove negative information from your file.
3.Report the identify theft to the Federal Trade Commission. You will need to complete the Identity Theft Affidavit form. Many of the creditors affected by the theft will need this.
4.Close any account affected by the identity theft.
5.Notify all of your credit card companies and let them know you were a victim of identity theft.
6.Close any unfamiliar accounts.
7.Contact the Social Security Administration if you suspect your Social Security number was compromised or is being used by someone else.
8.Keep copies of all correspondence to credit bureaus, creditors, Federal Trade Commission, Social Security Administration, and others pertaining to the identify theft.
Fraud Contacts
If you are a victim of identity theft, the following list will get you started down the path of clearing your good name. They key is to act quickly.

Credit Bureaus
Fraud Reporting Line: 1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Fraud Reporting Line: 1-800-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
P.O. Box 9532
Allen, Texas 75013

Fraud Reporting Line: 1-800-680-7289
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Federal Trade Commission
1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
To file the FTC Report online, visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft.

Social Security Administration
To report a stolen or misused Social Security number, call
Visit: www.ssa.gov.

Identity Theft

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