Identity theft can happen to anyone. In fact, if you’re not vigilant, you might not even be aware you’ve become a victim.
Identity theft occurs when key pieces of your personal information – such as your social security number or driver’s license – are stolen in order to impersonate you. The thief can then use your personal information to obtain credit in your name, make big purchases or give themselves false credentials. A victim of identity theft can face financial ruin if the fraud goes unnoticed or is not dealt with quickly.
How Do You Know If You’re a Victim of Identity Theft?
These are the most common indicators your personal information has been stolen:
- Your Credit Report Doesn’t Make Sense – Identity thieves will often try to open new accounts and debts in your name. Unless you review your credit report regularly, you won’t even know it’s happening. Make a habit of requesting a free copy of your credit report on an annual basis and go through all of the information that is listed to make sure it adds up. Review all of your debts and accounts, keeping an eye out for information you don’t recognize.
- Unauthorized Charges on Your Credit Card – If you see a strange charge on your credit card, you should be suspicious. Keep your receipts and take the time each month to go through your credit card statements to ensure they match up. Although this can be time-consuming, catching any unusual or suspicious charges as soon as they appear on your statement is crucial so you can report it to your financial institution right away.
- You Get Odd Correspondence – Any time you receive strange emails, phone calls, texts or letters regarding your financial affairs, you should be wary. For example, receiving information about credit cards you have never applied for or a notice confirming your mail has been forwarded, should be cause for alarm.
- You Start Getting Strange Medical Bills – One of the reasons thieves steal your information is to gain access to insurance for medical care. Having unpaid medical bills show up on your credit report can be damaging to your overall credit score and to make matters worse, you can still be held responsible for paying for medical care you’ve never received.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
You work too hard to let someone else steal your financial identity. Taking steps to protect yourself is the easiest and most effective way to avoid identity theft. Here are a few tips:
- Be vigilant by examining your credit reports annually. If you see any unusual information or your credit score is not what you expect, you may need to dig deeper to see if there are any signs you have been victimized. Your credit report is an important piece of your financial health – don’t wait until you are looking to make a large purchase – like a house or a car – to find out your identity has been stolen and your credit rating has crashed.
- Change online passwords frequently. Choose secure passwords that do not contain personal information or can be easily identified.
- When using a public computer, always clear your logins and passwords.
- Use your credit card instead of a debit card when possible, especially when shopping online or in public. Credit cards are easier to repair and are often guaranteed in cases of fraud.
- Increase computer security by investing in anti-spyware and spam blocking software.
- Shred any documents containing personal information before throwing it in the trash.
Update your mailing address immediately with your financial institution, postal service and any other companies you deal with upon moving to avoid having sensitive information mailed to the wrong address.
What to Do If You Discover Your Identity Has Been Stolen
Take these steps as soon as you suspect or become aware of fraudulent activity to protect yourself from becoming further victimized:
- Immediately report your suspicions to Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax. By reporting suspected fraud, your account will be put on alert, making it almost impossible for the thief to continue using your information for financial purposes.
- Get copies of your credit reports and carefully review them for inaccurate account information. Contact any companies you find errors with and advise them so they can stop all activities on your accounts. Follow-up with them in writing so you have a paper trail.
- Create a detailed fraud report and file it with your local police. Your detailed fraud report is known as an Identity Theft Affidavit. Once you have a copy of your police report, you should then file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who will also want a copy of the police report and Identity Theft Affidavit.
- After filing your reports, use them to have fraudulent information removed from your credit bureau files and prevent collection agencies from contacting you.
Once these immediate steps are taken, there is still work to do to ensure your personal information is protected, misinformation is corrected and you don’t continue to be victimized:
- Contact your financial institution to cancel and change accounts.
- Keep copies of every letter you send and receive. Always follow-up verbal conversations with written correspondence.
- Contact a credit repair company to help you recover your identity and guide you through the process.
- Legal action may be necessary.
Identity theft can have devastating and lasting financial consequences. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself and seek the professional advice of a credit repair company to secure your financial future.
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Great American Credit Repair Company…….because you deserve a fresh start! Call us today at 1-800-491-6578 for your FREE consultation. Our financial experts will work diligently on your behalf to raise your credit score and repair bad credit. We are attorney-approved and offer the industry’s only Money Back Triple Results Warranty to protect your investment.
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