Are You a Victim of Identity Theft?

by Megan Hartman on May 13, 2012

In this age of advanced global technology, the threat of identity theft becomes more real every day. Countless companies peddle services that claim to prevent your identity from being stolen, but there’s no guarantee that these services work well. And for some unfortunate folks, it’s too late; their identities have already been “borrowed.”

How do you know if your identity has been stolen?

Monitoring your financial statements and reports frequently will help you identify possible identity theft sooner. While checking your finances, you may discover any or all of the following red flags:

  • Your debit or credit card statements list charges for items and services that you did not buy.
  • Creditors or debt collectors contact you about purchases that you didn’t make or outstanding bills that you believe you have paid.
  • You are approved or denied credit for cards or accounts for which you did not apply.
  • Bills or other expected mail does not arrive. This could indicate that someone changed your billing address without your authorization.
  • When applying for a loan or other credit, you are denied credit or are offered a high interest rate for no apparent reason.
  • You cannot find debit or credit cards, or you are missing other identifying information like a driver’s license or membership ID card.

What should you do if you believe your identity has been stolen?

  1. Put a fraud alert on all of your credit reports, and review your reports immediately. Fraud alerts prevent identity thieves from opening any other accounts under your name. Call any one of the following credit reporting companies; they are required to contact the other two for you, and all three will place fraud alerts on your reports.
  2. TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)

    Once the fraud alert is set up, you may request free copies of your credit reports. Go over them very carefully and highlight any listings that you don’t remember or recognize. Make sure your personal information is correct.

  3. Close all of the accounts that you know or suspect have been opened by the thief, as well as any current accounts that the thief may have touched.
    For each company, talk with somebody in the fraud or security department. In addition, send a letter with copies of documents that support your position. This written notice is extremely important, so it’s best to send them by certified mail and request a return receipt; this way, you’ll know that the companies received your correspondence.
  4. File a report with the police either locally or where the theft happened.
    Obtain a copy of the police report to present to creditors as proof of the crime. If the police are reluctant to help, then either go to your state police or ask to file a “Miscellaneous Incidents” report.
  5. File an official complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
    This helps them to track down and stop identity thieves.
  6. Stay alert.
    To reduce the risk of recurring problems, monitor credit reports and financial statements frequently. Continue to watch for warning signs of possible theft as listed above.

Remember, although identity theft can cause problems if not caught and dealt with promptly, it’s not the end of the world. Many people have successfully stopped identity thieves and rebuilt their financial credit over time. Most importantly, stay vigilant and spread the word so others don’t become victims too.

Categories: Advice, Monitoring Credit

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