Ways to avoid Identity Theft
Identity Theft skyrocketing
Identity theft is on the top of the list when it comes to the fastest growing crime in the United States and it's effects can be felt globally. According to the Federal Trade Commission over 1 million people were victims in 2007. The most troubling factor is that each victim has to spend sometimes years and hundreds of dollars trying to clear their name.
Safeguards to avoid Identity Theft
* Don't disclose any of your personal information until you know exactly how it will be used and find out if it intended to be shared with third parties.
* Be familiar with your credit card billing cycles so you can call your creditors if a bill has not arrived on time . A missing bill can perhaps mean that someone has stolen it from your mailbox. (If you are going to be gone out of town for an extended time,place a vacation hold on all your mail with the Post Office. Also if you're gone for just a couple of days have a trusted neighbor or relative that lives close by to retrieve your mail for you).
*If your credit card has expired and you have not received a new one,call your credit card company right away.
* To alleviate having mail stolen place a lock on your mailbox.
* Have your name,address and phone numbers removed from marketing list by going to the Direct Marketing Association's website(www.thedma.org). Your name will be removed from most lists but not all.
*Shred all documents that have any personal information on them. Just ripping by hand is not good enough because theives are very good at going through the trash and splicing documents back together....they have nothing to loose and everything to gain with your information(unless there caught).
*Order a copy of your credit report from all three reporting agencies in the U.S. They are Equifax(800-685-1111) or www.equifax.com. Experian (888-397-3742) or www.experian.com and Transunion(800-888-4213) or www.transunion.com.
Note: Be aware that you are entiltled to one free credit report per year. The web address is www.annualcreditreport.com.
* Subscribe to a credit monitoring service for a fee. With this service you will be notified within 24 hours or less if there has been any change activity on you credit report that you haven't initiated.
* Identity theft Insurance is now availabe to help victims restore their name and good credit. Please be aware that this insurance may not be available in all states.
* Do not put your Social Security or Drivers license numbers on your personal check
* Avoid using your mother's name, last 4 of your Social Security number or your birth date as passwords for credit or debit cards,or other bills you pay online that may have payment information stored.
* Don't hand the bad guy or gal your personal checks by having new checks mailed to you. Pick them up at the bank is a much wiser choice.
If You fall Victim
None of us wants to become a casualty of identity theft, but if you do,here is what you must do right away.
1. Contact your credit card company and/or bank and close your account and re-assign new passwords on new accounts. Make sure that the institution you are contacting knows the reason for your actions.
2. Contact all three credit bureaus and have them put a "fraud alert on your file. Also add to your file a "victims" statement" which will automatically trigger creditors to contact you before a new account is opened in your name.
3. Last but not least,contact your local police and file a report stating all the specifics of where the identity theft took place. When the report is completed,ask for a copy to show proof to your banks,etc.
4. Cancel all current savings and checking accounts and open new ones. If your account carrys a ATM card,get a new one and new password.