Keeping Identity Theft At Bay

Clint Heinze--No one is immune to the destructive side effects of losing your identity.

Anyone can suffer from a mild to severe case of digital amnesia. This blackout occurs when an individual’s identity is stolen by cyber criminals who utilize it for their illegal purposes.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, criminals can use your name, Social Security number or credit card number for fraudulent purposes.

“Identity theft is when someone impersonates others’ identities and
uses their information,” Jacqueline Montejano, the Sales and Service Specialist at Bank of America in Riverside, said.

The FTC states that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Therefore, it is likely that yourself, a friend or family member has been a victim of identity theft.

A person’s identity is important. When a thief steals your information, it can be difficult to regain composure from such a devastating hit. There is no definite way of avoiding this type of fraud but here are a few guidelines to keep all of your personal information protected.

Before your identity is stolen
In order to discourage criminals, the FTC advises that you protect your Social Security number. Store your Social Security card in a safe place, shred documents such as bank statements and do not give out personal information like your credit card number over the phone or through e-mails.

“Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet,” Montejano said. This gives criminals an easy opportunity to view information you did not know could be accessed, like the establishment you bank at, your address, your current balance, information about family members and past homes you have resided at, just to name a few.

Maintaining acceptable credit is essential for acquiring loans, houses, cars and other items required for success. The best way to maintain a consistent credit score is to look at your credit card and bank statements every month to see if you made all of the purchases listed. Check your credit report each year, taking special note that the numbers match up. If not, it will be obvious that your identity has been stolen.

After identity has been stolen
“The first step that must be taken after your I.D. is stolen is to report it to one of the three credit agencies and let your bank know,” Montejano said.

The second step is to call your credit card company and close the account or have an initial or extended fraud alert placed on your account. The latter requires documentation and approval from the FTC before you can submit a request for an extended fraud alert.

The third step is to file a complaint with the FTC. In order to file a complaint, go onto the FTC’s website and use their secure complain form. The complaint assistant will walk you through the process.

The fourth is to file a police report so the local community knows what is happening.

How do thieves steal your I.D.?
Criminals trying to find personal information can do so in multiple ways, such as going through trash, using special devises known as skimmers that collect card numbers from store transactions, sending e-mails that ask for the numbers or stealing a wallet or purse.

Far worse than the emotional toll is the possibility of not being able to receive a personal college loan, which could drastically change a student’s life.

“Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports,” the FTC said.

Identity theft does not seem like a major threat to a person until it happens to them.

How to avoid identity theft
– Keep Social Security number in a safe place, not in a wallet or purse.
– Do not give out personal information on the phone or through e-mail.
– Shred personal documents like bank statements.
– Check your accounts regularly
– Go over all of your charges on credit card statements.
– Check your credit score at least once a year. How to react without panicking
– Call one of the three major credit companies (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian).
– Close your account and apply for a new credit card.
– File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
– File a police report.

How to react without panicking
– Call one of the three major credit companies (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian).
– Close your account and apply for a new credit card.
– File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
– File a police report.

Ask the Professional
– Should I have a fraud alert placed on my account?
– Should I have a freeze placed on my account?

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