Identity Theft

     One of the latest trends in criminal activity is Identity Theft and we are all vulnerable! Why you ask? Well because in our society today there are numerous ways governments and businesses identify us as who we are. Basically all of these systems depend on numbers. For example, your social security number, drivers license number, credit card numbers, bank account numbers and many others. It is these numbers that identify us that a thief is after. When a thief uses one of these numbers to impersonate you it becomes Identity Theft! Actually, identity theft occurs anytime a person uses your personal information including your name without your permission to commit a crime.

     So your wondering how someone could get your personal information. Well it is quite simple really. Think of all the times in one day you give some of this information away. For example every check you write has your account number at the bottom. The point is that it is very easy for someone to get your personal information and commit identity theft. However, there are a few steps you can take to help prevent identity theft from happening to you. For one, be aware of who you are giving your information to. For example, writing a check to pay your electric bill is OK. But replying to an email that claims to be from your electric company saying they need your account number for their records would not be a good idea. Use your judgment when you give out personal information. If something doesn't seem right, your probably on to something.

     However, despite the efforts you take to prevent ID Theft from happening there are just to many things outside your control. For example, that check you mailed to the electric company to pay your bill gets stolen and the thief uses your check to steal your account information. This obviously is beyond your control. What is not beyond your control is quick action. By addressing the fraudulent activity on your accounts quickly you can prevent the overwhelming damage identity theft can create over time. How can you do this? First, examine all your monthly bills when they arrive for accuracy and balance your bank accounts. If something is wrong, address it immediately to determine if fraud has occurred. Finally, use a credit monitoring service to notify you of any unusual activity on your credit report. Since we rarely see our own credit reports, this service is vital to keeping you informed. Often the first place identity theft becomes obvious is on you credit report. Know what your credit report says!

     If you think you are an ID Theft victim there are four steps you need to follow immediately.

1) Contact the fraud departments of one of the three major credit bureaus (Trans Union, Equifax, Experian) and place a fraud alert on your credit file. Once a fraud alert is on your file all creditors will be asked to contact you before opening any new accounts or making changes to your current accounts.

2) Close all accounts that you believe have been tampered will or created without your knowledge.

3) File a police report and submit a copy of this report to your creditors to prove you are victim of a crime.

4) File your complaint with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

     ID Theft is a terrible crime that has created great hardship for its victims. It can take months or even years to repair the damage done by this crime. Victims have lost their jobs, been denied for loans and even arrested for crimes they did not commit because of identity theft. For more information on identity theft and resources to help if you are a victim visit the FTC website at the link below. Also below, is a link to a credit monitoring service we recommend to help you prevent from becoming a victim.

FTC (Federal Trade Commission)

Credit Monitoring from FreeCreditProfile

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