Identity theft can cause massive and long lasting headaches. Most identity theft is actually low tech and is caused by people you know who may have access to your personal information through misplaced trust mixed with carelessness. The longer you have let identity theft go the harder it becomes to clean it up. Prevention of identity theft is best achieved through constant vigilance. Let’s start with the basics:
- Safeguard your social security number. You know it. There is no need to have it in writing anywhere.
- Buy a shredder and use it for all bank and credit card statements as well as other sensitive information. Better yet, forgo the paper statements in favor of electronic statements. Theft or discovery of statements is to blame for a large amount of identity theft.
- Don’t respond to e-mails requesting personal information.
- Don’t give personal information to unsolicited callers.
- Carefully review monthly statements and financial reports for unusual or unfamiliar entries.
- If you discover it immediately put a fraud alert at the credit reporting agencies. Experian…888-397-3742, Equifax…800-525-6285, TransUnion…800-680-7289.
Or you can call the FTC at 877-IDTHEFT. They will pass it on to the appropriate authorities including the Credit Reporting Agencies. Contact directly any creditor you feel has been duped.
Identity Theft Needs Police Report
Creditors and credit card companies require that you file a police report as a pre-condition of relieving you of responsibility for the disputed claim. Some police departments balk at doing this because they are unfamiliar with the process or feel that it is outside the scope of their responsibility. If this happens, the FTC recommends that you ask them to file a miscellaneous incidents report. If you know for sure or strongly suspect that the problem stems from stolen or intercepted mail alert the Post Office.
Be Meticulous to Stop Identity Theft
Be very meticulous about your actions in response to this problem and be prepared to be persistent. Vigilance regarding unrecognized credit card charges, missing statements or denied credit is your best defense. Monitor your credit reports regularly. Like most diseases, early detection ensures successful treatment.