Identity Theft is an all too common occurrence. In fact, over 10 million people become victims of identity theft each year and that number is steadily growing. The immediate effects of this sort of crime are obviously financial, but identity theft can leave lasting feelings of helplessness and paranoia.
Luckily, there are systems in place with which you can protect yourself. It’s important to stay educated on these matters; many victims of identity theft cite a lack of awareness concerning these useful preventive methods. What follows here is a list of steps you can take to stop fraud dead in its tracks and make sure you’re protected in the future.
Immediate steps to take
Place an initial Fraud Alert: There are three separate national companies that keep track of credit history. If you suspect that you have been a victim of identity theft, call one of these companies and request to place an initial Fraud Alert. Placing a Fraud Alert is free and it will stop the perpetrator from continuing to use your financial information. You can renew a Fraud Alert every 90 days.
Order your credit report: Once you’ve made your initial Fraud Alert, you can now receive a free credit report from each of the three national companies. Order a credit report to see exactly where and how your credit has been affected. It is also helpful to request that the credit companies only show the last four digits of your SSN on the reports. This is just another security precaution.
Create an Identity Theft Report: An identity theft report is your main arsenal against some of the more devastating effects of identity theft. An identity report allows you to do a few crucial things:
- Get fraudulent information removed from your credit report
- Stop companies from collecting debts resulting from Identity Theft, or from passing that debt on to another collection agency
- Extend your fraud alert from beyond the initial 90 days
- Get specific information about what accounts the thief opened, or what exactly they did with your info
Monitor your progress
Telephone Calls: Create a detailed call log cataloging your correspondence with the companies you interface with. This will help you to keep all your info in one place so you’re not backtracking or wasting time repeating calls.
Postal Mail: You now may have learned this lesson the hard way; keep track of your mail! Always send your mail via a certified carrier and always ask for a return receipt!
Documents: Be cautious with your documents as well. Keep originals of everything and only send copies!
Deadlines: Remember, no one is going to solve your problems with identity theft for you. It’s important that you stay on top of dates and deadlines and that you get everything done and sent in expediently. Do what you can to get this behind you!
How to prevent identity theft in the future
Credit Reports: Monitor your bank accounts and credit reports on a regular basis. It’s impossible to do this too often!
Received Credit Card offers: If you’re not currently in the market a new credit card, then you may as well opt out of card offers you may receive in the mail. These mail-in offers are a hotbed for identity theft activity. Additionally, if you are in the market for a credit card there are many safer, more secure routes that you can go about getting a credit card.
Mail Boss: Make sure to get a Mail Boss locking mailbox to prevent anyone from tampering with your mail once it has been delivered.