According to the Federal Trade Commission, Identity theft is the number one consumer complaint in the United State. It can taint your good name for decades and for some reason you are the one treated like a criminal.
But here is a secret: You are the only one in charge of protecting your good credit. If you don’t, there is really no one else that will! So snap out of it! Take control!
Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t take every credit card with you! If you know you are going shopping and you are going to make a purchase with your credit card, leave the rest at home in a safe place and take the one you are going to use.
- Don’t take your Social Security card with you! What if your wallet or purse is stolen? The thief will have all they need to get to everything you have! Leave it at home in a safe place too.
- Check your credit! Make it a habit to check your credit report at least once or twice a year. A better rule of thumb is every quarter! You can get your annual report at AnnualCreditReport.com, which allows you to request a report once a year from the three national consumer credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Also check out How to Get a Free FICO Score.
- Shred your mail! It is an unfortunate fact of life that there are people who make a living dumpster diving. Don’t be afraid to print your documents, just be aware how you store and dispose of them. All the junk mail – credit card offers, billing statements and renewal notices need to be shredded. If you own a business, consider hiring a service to do it for you as they will recycle the shredded paper for you as well!
- Don’t give information on the phone! Any legitimate credit card company or business that needs information from you will not call you on the phone. Remember be suspicious if anyone wants to “confirm your details” via the phone. If you call the credit card company, they MUST ask you details to confirm who you are but if they call you, they cannot ask details.
What do you do if your identity IS stolen?
The steps you take when you identity is stolen are crucial, and should be done immediately.
- Call the police – you will need documentation and proof that you have been a victim in this case.
- Request a credit freeze – This is not a pleasant thing to do as it is rather radical because it prevents anyone including you from opening any new credit – until you remove it. It is usually not free, but you can check the rules at the Consumers Union site.
- Call your bank and creditors – According to the FTC, reporting a stolen card before it’s used absolves you of any liability. But if the thief uses your credit card before you can report it, the most you are responsible for is $50 per card. Debit cards are the worst – if you don’t report it for two days, it could cost upwards of $500. If you wait 60 days it could mean your entire balance!!
- Request a fraud alert on your accounts – its free! All you have to do is request it online!!
- Go to the bank – and request copies of any checks that have been written on your account so you can have them for police. This will speed the process up greatly!
For more information, check out this website, FTC’s Identity Theft site.