Identity theft happens when another person uses your personal information, such as your name or social security number, without your permission to commit fraud. Identity theft is a serious crime that is indisputably growing fast. It is estimated that over nine million people fall victim each year, and the price they pay for someone else’s misdeed is not an easy one. While some victims might find their problems cleared up quickly, others spend a lot of money and a lot of hours fixing the damage done to their credit report.
Reduce the Risks
There are some things you can do to help safeguard yourself from identity theft. First, buy a paper shredder. You should always shred any paper that contains your social security number or any personal information of any kind, including your name, address, credit card numbers, or other information you wouldn’t want anyone to know. Next, buy a locking mailbox. It is just too easy for a thief to reach into your mailbox when no one is looking and steal any mail that could hold personal information. When sending mail, use the post office rather than your mailbox. Again, it’s easy access for a would-be identity thief. Keep track of your financial documents, including receipts, and keep them locked up. Be careful of people on the telephone claiming to be from a financial institution. If you are contacted, simply tell them you will return the call and then use only the phone number provided on the statement. Never give your information, especially your social security number, to anyone you do not know. You should only share your social security number with financial institutions, employers, government agencies, or when you are applying for credit. One of the most important actions you can take to protect yourself is to monitor your credit report. Strange delinquencies or unpaid accounts on your report are a sign that identity theft has taken place.
If Identity Theft Happens To You
Unfortunately, you will probably have to go to battle to have your credit restored. There are resources out there, however, to help you along the way. The Federal Trade Commission has a lot of information for victims that can be found on their website http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft. Make sure to keep detailed notes of any conversation you have regarding the theft. Contact the credit bureaus to have a fraud alert put in your credit file and make sure that alert will last for a minimum of seven years. Also, contact banks or creditors if affected accounts need to be closed or payment of checks need to be stopped. File an ID Theft Report with the police. This report can help to block false information resulting from identity theft from being on your credit report.
Identity theft can damage your credit significantly. If you find you are a victim of identity theft, you will want to act quickly because the longer things go uncorrected, the longer the process will be to fix the problems. It is not right that your credit suffers because of someone’s crime against you. Act fast so that you can help get your credit restored to where it should be.