Identity theft is one of the highest rising crimes in the world. Everyone needs to become much more aware of this crime, so that they can take steps to avoid becoming a victim and know what to do if they discover or believe they might be a victim of identity theft.
Simple steps can be taken to try to decrease the likelihood of you becoming a victim. For instance, shredding all personal documents and mail, cutting up old credit and debit cards. Be aware that true companies will NEVER ask for your credit card or social security numbers over the telephone. You should never leave ATM receipts at the machines. Also, be very careful when posting personal information to websites. The internet is a very anonymous place and you probably know nothing about the person or people behind the website you are visiting. Every and all documents that contain your personal information can potentially allow a crook to steal your identity. Just one piece of carelessness can lead to a living nightmare should your identity be stolen.
If you have even the slightest doubt about the possibility of someone having stolen your identity then you need to act immediately in order to minimise the potential damage to your financial standing.
Here are 5 tips to follow if you believe your identity is at risk –
1. CALL THE CREDIT BUREAUS AND PUT A FRAUD ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT FILES
Contact one of the credit reference agencies, i.e. Equifax or Experian, as quickly as you can and inform them that you believe you may have had your identity stolen. They will put a fraud alert on your personal credit file which will make it almost impossible for anyone to open any type of credit account with your information. If any such applications are made then the credit reference agency will need to receive your confirmation before allowing the application to proceed.
2. CONTACT LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Inform the authorities so they can begin an investigation. They may also be able to inform neighbours, etc, if it was a door to door conman or someone stealing from post boxes. Reporting the instance of identity theft to the police will mean that you receive a crime number. This will aid in dealing with creditors, insurance companies, etc.
3. CLOSE ANY ACCOUNTS THAT YOU THINK MAY HAVE BEEN AFFECTED<
As mentioned, the process of getting information off of your credit report after becoming a victim of identity theft can be a very long a grueling task. You need to be pro-active and get accounts closed that may be tampered with before damage can be done. The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that almost 70% of people who had been victims of identity theft said they were still trying to get fraudulent items on their credit reports removed.
4. CONTACT THE FTC AND FILE A COMPLAINT
The FTC has generated a database to help law enforcement and give them a better understanding of identity theft and find ways they can help prevent acts in the future as well as ways to assist victims in the future.
5. WATCH YOUR CREDIT REPORT FOR UNKNOWN CHANGES
Become pro-active and rely on no one but yourself. Request credit reports on a regular basis and check them thoroughly for any signs of transactions you did not authorise. Sign up for monthly services that will give you alerts when there are any changes to your credit report.
Identity Theft is a particularly nasty crime which has a very personal effect and can take a lot of time to overcome. It can be quite distressing emotionally and, even though it may be resolved in the future, the financial implications in the short term can be quite devastating. Be aware, and minimise your exposure to this growing crime before you become part of the ever increasing statistics.