As many as 10 million people have their identities stolen each year. In fact, there is a good chance you know someone who has had their identity stolen.Eye Scan

For the victim, it takes dozens of hours and hundreds of dollars to repair the damage done by identity thieves. They may lose job opportunities, be denied loans and face higher interest rates. They could even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

The FTC has created a plan to help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, minimize the risk, and minimize the damage if your identity is stolen. It is all about following the “3 D’s” of identity protection – Deter, Detect, Defend.

Deter

The best way to prevent the theft of your identity is to safeguard your information.

· Shred any personal information before you discard it. This should be financial statements, bills for utilities, and credit card offers. Anything with your personal information on it can make you vulnerable.

· Protect your social security number. Do not carry it with you. Your purse or wallet could be lost or stolen. Don’t write it on your checks. If you are asked for identification, try to use something else like a credit card and drivers license.

· Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails. They may show a valid web address but take you to a look-alike where they will try to obtain your personal information. Banks will always ask you to log in to your account but will never provide a link to it.

· Don’t use obvious passwords like the last four digits of your social security number or your mother’s maiden name. It’s best to mix letters and numbers and avoid dictionary words.

· Keep your personal information in a safe place in your home. It should not be accessible to roommates, guests, those doing work for you, or burglars.

Detect

Routinely monitor your financial accounts and billing statements for suspicious activity. Request a free annual credit report from www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.

Be alert to:

· Bills or mail you are not expecting.

· Unexpected credit card or account statements.

· Calls or letters about purchases you didn’t make.

· Denial of credit for no obvious reason.

Defend

As soon as you suspect there may be a problem, place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review those reports carefully. This will tell creditors the procedures they need to follow before opening new accounts in your name.

Calling one credit reporting company will alert all of them of your initial 90-day fraud alert:

· Equifax: 800-525-6285

· Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)

· TransUnion: 800-680-7289

You are entitled to free copies of your credit report if you place a fraud alert. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted and for accounts you can’t explain.

File a police report. This will help you support your claim when asked by creditors who want proof there was a crime.

Close accounts. Any accounts that are not yours or have been tampered with should be closed. Check with the fraud or security department of these companies. Follow up in writing. An ID Theft Affidavit can be obtained online from ftc.gov/idtheft. Get written verification that your accounts have been closed and the debts cleared.

File a complaint with the FTC. Your report can help law enforcement officials. Online, file at ftc.gov/idtheft or call 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).

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