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Stopping Identity Theft

Identity theft can wreak havoc on your peace of mind.  Not only does it hurt your credit – at least until it’s discovered – it puts the burden of proof on you.  You now have to prove to the credit companies that you did not run up the charges.  In this case, prevention is the best medicine.  

You can help protect yourself from identity theft by protecting your sensitive information.  Don’t leave credit card receipts, statements, bank account numbers, or other sensitive information laying around for others to see.  Shred these documents before throwing them away.  Anything sensitive that you need to keep should be locked away.  Important documents with account information are often sent through the mail.  If at all possible, use a computer to pay bills and send email, and make sure your information is password protected.

If you are a victim of identity theft, call the affected creditors and close the accounts.  Make sure you also include your ATM or debit cards.  Place a fraud alert on your credit report and if possible, freeze it as well.  Then call the police and make a report.

The importance of making a police report should not be forgotten; in fact, the FACTA requires it.  This is intended to prevent false claims by those who wish to improve their credit reports illegally.  The reporting process is not complicated.
 
Simply report your suspicions to the police, and make sure you get the police report number, and note the date, time, and person taking the report.  Keep this information on hand in the event you need to provide it to your lenders.  Keep the formal police report to submit it to credit bureaus, so you can clear your report.  Another benefit to filing the police report is to protect yourself in the event someone uses your identity in the case of an arrest.
 
Below is a list of additional things you can do to prevent identity theft.
  • 1. Pay your bills online.  This decreases the chance that paper bills or statements end up where others can easily find them.
  • 2. Look over all your statements carefully.
  • 3. Create secure passwords and guard them well.
  • 4. Protect your social security number.
  • 5. Check through all mail – even mail that seems like junk mail.  It could be from an account opened by someone else.
  • 6. Decrease the amount of unsolicited credit card offers that come in the mail by visiting www.optoutprescreen.com and contacting the Direct Marketing Association to remove your name from mailing lists.  Shred the solicitations you do receive before throwing them out.
  • 7. If possible, use a post office box, and do not put bill payments and checks in an unlocked mailbox. 
  • 8. Have someone you trust pick up your mail when you are away.
  • 9. Do not give out your credit card number.
  • 10. Shred important documents containing your personal information.
If you are unfortunate enough to be a victim of identity theft, here are some ways to deal with the aftermath:
  • 1. Cancel any accounts that you think have been compromised.  This includes checking accounts.
  • 2. Notify the credit reporting bureaus.  You only have to contact one, and they will contact the rest.
  • 3. Make a report to the police.
  • 4. Notify the post office.
  • 5. Contact the Federal Trade Commission.
  • 6. Contact the Social Security Administration.
  • 7. Make sure all of your accounts have passwords.
  • 8. Place an alert on your credit report – an extended one is best, as it last for 7 years.
  • 9. Keep good records.

 

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