How Can I Prevent Identity Theft?

How Can I Prevent Identity Theft?

Everyone should safeguard all their account numbers so they wonít be a victim of identity theft. Identity theft happens when someone pretends to be you by using your personal information when applying for loans, credit cards, or leases. In some cases people may impersonate you when receiving traffic violations or other legal contact.

The thief takes advantage of your good history or credit record, leaving behind bad credit or misdeeds in your name. Losses to consumer and institutions due to identity theft totaled $845 million in 1997, according to the U. S. Secret Service.

How the thief gets your personal information
Stealing your purse or wallet Pilfering information such as bank statements and pre-approved credit card applications from your mailbox. Posing as your employer, loan officer or landlord to get your credit reports. Going through trash for credit card carbons or loan applications. Watching transactions at automated teller machines to capture your PIN.

How to minimize the risk
Never carry your SSN in your wallet or diary or printed on checks. Guard your SSN closely, giving it out only to official authorities or businesses you trust. Some firms will accept another identifier if you ask. Be careful how you dispose of documents. Ideally, shred them. Exercise your right to stop your credit header being sold, which will also stop pre-approved offers of credit. Call the credit bureausí special toll free line (888) 567-8688. Donít post personal information on the internet for example, on genealogical or college reunion sites. Check your credit report at least once a year. Should you become a victim, see below for where to go for help. Here are some other tips.

Obtain a copy of the fraudulent contract or application. This is the key document that proves the person who signed it isnít you. Finding the company that issued it and the right person to talk to isnít always easy.

Try to get past the gatekeepers to someone who is in charge. Contact the credit bureaus that hold your credit report. Ask them to log the theft and remove the bad accounts from your report, giving as much proof as possible. You may meet difficulties, but by law, the bureau must correct any wrong information.

Have a "fraud alert" put on your credit report. This should alert credit grantors to check a new application. Keep meticulous dated records of your attempts to clean the record letters, phone calls, and what were said.

Never agree to pay any portion of the debt just to get the debt collectors off your back. The balance will stay on your record. Remember you are not a victim; do not let these people intimidate you. Contact the police to fight back.

Where to go for help
To report identity theft and get help on how to restore your credit: contact Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580, or call, toll free, (877) 382-4357. www.consumer.gov/idtheft for online info.

To report ID theft, get your credit record (free for fraud victims) and to have it corrected, contact all of these:

Trans Union, Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P. O. Box 6790
Fullerton, California 92384
(800) 680-7289

Equifax
P. O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
(800) 525-6285

Experian
P. O. Box 1017
Allen, Texas 75013
(800) 301-7195

If you have been the victim of Identity Theft, contact your local Law Enforcement office.

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