Lock your doors, hide your money in the safe, hire security guards to protect your prized possessions, but what can you do if someone stole your identity? If something valuable is stolen, you can call the police and hope to get your stolen property back. Rightly termed as the crime of the 21st century, victimizing millions of Americans, you can do very little if you find your identity stolen. Identity theft is on the rise, and nearly everyone is vulnerable to this new-age form of fraud.
How is it done?
Using all possible methods, criminals steal credit card numbers, social security numbers, telephone calling cards, ATM cards and other key pieces of an individual’s identities. The information on these is used to impersonate the victim, by spending maximum money in the shortest time they can.
Preventive steps or Precautions
1. Avoid carrying valuable documents and cards with you whenever you go out, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
2. Opt for the Direct Marketing Associations Mail Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service. By doing this, your name is added to the computerized name deletion lists used by marketers all over the nation.
3. Pick the newly ordered checks from the bank and do not allow them to be sent to your residential address.
4. To keep the mailing system secure, install a locked mailbox at your residence.
5. Post mail bills and other sensitive items at the post office instead of the neighborhood drop boxes. Sometimes the envelopes containing the address could land in the wrong hands and be altered.
6. Do not give out information over the phone unless it is an individual belonging to a trusted company. Lottery and ‘lucky dip’ calls should not be entertained, as they are usually hoax.
7. Release Social Security Numbers (SSN) only if it is necessary.
8. While creating passwords and PIN numbers, avoid using numbers from social security, birth date, middle name or any kind of important personal numbers; these are said to be easy for criminals to figure out.
9. Cross check that financial institutions are safeguarding your important data. Insist on the removal of account numbers from ATM slips; also ask them to shred the paper reports before throwing them away.
After the Theft
1. The moment you feel that there has been an identity theft, it is important to report the crime to the police. Provide all the requisite documented evidence. Even if the police refuse to give the report, be persistent and demand it. Keep the police report for the bank and credit card company’s reference.
2. Inform the banks, cancel all the savings and checking accounts and get new account numbers.
3. Call the 3 credit reporting companies and ask them to flag the accounts. Ask for a fraud alert to be attached to the report and extend it later if you want to. This fraud alert lets creditors contact you whenever there is an attempt to open an account in your name.
4. File an ID theft affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission after reporting the theft. This affidavit can be sent to credit bureaus and institutions to close fraudulent debts and accounts opened in your name.
5. Lastly, do not blame yourself for the theft, you being the victim should not feel guilty for the theft, and instead handle the situation calmly.
Do not let all the reputation and respect you have earned be trifled with by a petty thief. It is sometimes observed that people you know are the ones who sabotage your identity by using it against you. Be on the safe side and avoid disclosing any personal information to anyone. The identity you have been given is yours to have; no other person has the right to take it from you.