Many statistics have been provided to approximate the number of Americans affected by identity theft and misuse. Near 7% of adults are a victim of identity theft, making it a very real threat. A large portion of those affected are subjected to credit card fraud in which strangers rack up bills on their credit cards.
Identity theft is on the rise. As technology continues to advance, it only makes it easier for the common criminal to steal other people’s identities. It’s no wonder identity theft has quickly grown to be an alarming national problem. If you are a victim or witness of this crime or know about it in some way, it’s important that you report identity theft as soon as possible. Especially if you are a victim. In this case it is important to stop the thief using your identity as soon as possible before further damage can be done.
Identity theft is basically when another person illegally opens credit accounts, sometimes even bank loans, using vital information that was stolen somehow. This information includes your social security number, as well as other details that would enable them to verify their identity as your own.
Although there are identity theft safeguards in place to insure against this kind of fraud, banks and other credit institutions are driven to get your business. Sometimes these credit institutions will approve a new credit application before giving it a good, thorough investigation. These safeguards work, but not always. You’ll need to be proactive if you want to be alerted to any kind of identity theft going on.
In order to report identity theft, immediately contact the fraud departments of the 3 main credit bureaus. Let them know that you’ve recently been the victim of this crime so that they can put a fraud alert on your file. While you’re doing this, also order copies of your credit report so that you can be certain that no other credit accounts were opened under your identity.
You’ll also need to contact the creditors at which fraudulent accounts were opened. Ask to talk with the fraud department at every creditor. Be sure to follow-up with a letter as the consumer protection procedure calls for resolving errors in writing.
Don’t forget to contact the local authorities so that you can report identity theft and file a report with them. Get a copy of the report so that you can provide proof to any creditors that request it.
With the ever increasing amount of transactions taking place online and otherwise electronically it is important now more than ever to protect yourself from potential theft of your identity. Your identity may be misused to spend your money, approve loans in your name, or interact with private companies. Recovering from identity theft is a long and cumbersome process without help from a credit professional. Without proper information it’s possible you will not be able to recover a portion of your losses.
You can report fraud to the government and cancel transactions which are fraudulent however you cannot be sure exactly how much damage has been done, and whether you will be able to fully recover your identity. Without monitoring your credit you may not even be aware that you are a victim. Fraudulent vendors will often spend your money on very small unnoticeable transactions which rack up to amounts in the thousands.
Taking simple safety precautions can help to lower the risk of revealing personal details to the wrong people.
Do not purchase from companies which have outstanding issues in the Better Business Bureau.
Make sure online shops and bank logins are passing information via encrypted SSL. You can check their SSL certificate and see which authority authenticated it.
Look for company registration or physical addresses at which you can contact a company when you have billing related questions. This will also help you find more trustworthy vendors to make purchases from.
Keep your antivirus up to date. Not all antivirus software comes with identity protection, find one that does.
Confirm correct address URLs in your browser bar, sometimes fraudsters setup sites which look completely identical to the real one.
Unfortunately these tips can only minimize the chances of becoming a victim of fraud. To protect yourself further you may want identity insurance. Companies providing this insurance will provide recovery funds to reimburse those affected by identity related fraud. These companies also provide the resources to help those insured with contacting creditors and locking down accounts to prevent further misuse of the identity in question.