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Identity Theft

Identity theft prevention and identity theft reporting are both discussed in this article. Keep your credit history clean and avoid identity theft by checking your free annual credit report with the top 3 reporting agencies. Identity theft and identity fraud are common credit problems.

One of the things that can be most damaging to your credit history is identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone pretends to be you in order to get some sort of benefit. This can be using your Social Security number to get approved for a loan, stealing your credit card information and making purchases, or any number of things in which someone acts as you.

Because unauthorized purchases and new credit accounts can damage your credit rating, it is important to be vigilant. Do your best to minimize your risk of identity theft, and keep tabs on your accounts and credit report so that you can catch any problems and work to solve them as quickly as possible.

Protecting yourself from identity theft

In today's world, it is impossible to completely protect yourself from identity theft. Because of how much information is being shifted around, and stored, it is possible for any number of actions to ultimately result in identity theft. There are many forms of identity protection and building online. There are, however, some things you can do to limit the risk of having your identity stolen:

Be wary of people asking for your personal information. Do not disclose entire bank account numbers, Social Security numbers and other information over the phone, through the mail and on the Internet. Make sure that you are dealing with a reputable company. Don't be afraid to ask how the information will be used, and don't be afraid to request another method of identification.
Only carry what you need with you. Social Security cards (memorize your Social Security Number) and extra credit cards should be kept in a safe place at home. This way, if someone grabs your purse, all of your information does not fall into the wrong hands.
Memorize PINs and passwords. You should not carry them on your person. Keep them in a safe place at home. Also, memorize account numbers that you use most often.
Choose passwords that are easy for you to remember, but that aren't easy to figure out. Your mother's maiden name, your children's names, birthdates of family members and other information that is easy to come by should not be used. Passwords are most secure when they include a mix of upper and lower case letters, along with some numbers.
Do not lend your credit card to ANYONE. Always keep it in your possession.
Shred documents with personal information including driver's license number, Social Security Number, account number and authorization codes. This also includes credit card offers. Always shred them so that someone else can't get a card in your name.
Do not write your account number or other identifying information on the outside of envelopes or in any other visible place.
Do not let your Social Security Number be placed on your driver's license.
Compare your receipts to your monthly bills, and always balance your bank statements. This way you can catch unauthorized purchases more quickly.
Check your credit report on a regular basis. This way you will be able to see inaccuracies that can be warning signs of identity theft.

If you are a victim of identity theft

If you do become a victim of identity theft, quick action is of the utmost importance. You must act quickly to limit and repair the damage.

Immediately contact the three major credit bureaus and let them know of the problem. Have them place a "fraud alert" (this service is free) on your credit report. This will ensure that your permission has to be obtained before any new accounts are opened using your name.
Call the local police department and file a report. Make sure to get a copy for yourself. This is often the proof that creditors need in order to sort out whether you are liable for fraudulent charges.
Report the identity theft to the federal government by calling 877-IDTHEFT.
Contact each creditor that has a fraudulent account. Close the accounts that were not opened by you. Notify creditors of accounts you did open of fraudulent charges. Follow up in writing. See about getting a new account number and credit card issued. Password protect your accounts.
Close any bank accounts that have been accessed by the perpetrator. Stop payment on any checks that have been stolen. Get a new account (with password protection) and new ATM cards and PINs.
If mail has been stolen, or if a change of address form has been falsified, notify the local inspector at the post office.
Make sure that the Social Security Administration has the proper information on your employment (in case your Social Security Number has been stolen).
If you suspect that someone been using your identity to get a driver's license, or if your driver's license number is being used for identification, let the local DMV know.
Order new copies of your credit report after 60 90 days to verify that corrections have been made to your credit history.
Make sure that you are documenting all of your contact with others (names and phone numbers, dates and times) throughout the process.

Do not rest your vigilance when it comes to keeping your identity safe. Your financial reputation depends upon it.

Related Article: Equifax Review >>

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