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Five Tips to Avoid Identity Theft
Identity theft victims reported losses of more than $15 billion in 2014. This is more than the combined losses of burglaries, motor vehicle thefts and other property thefts during the same period. While it’s no surprise that identity theft can make you feel vulnerable, there are things you can do to take control.
Step 1: Order your credit report when you realize you’ve been a victim. You need to be aware of any errors that appear in the report quickly. Visit Annualcreditreport.com to get a free copy of your report from all three national credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax and Transunion.
If you see any errors or fraudulent charges, report them to the credit reporting companies immediately. They investigate these elements and then forward the information to the reporting company. The business has 30 days to respond.
If the loan company finds an error, it must notify the credit reporting company so that your file can be corrected. If your credit changes because of a business investigation, the reporting company will send you a letter with the results.
Step 2: Enter a fraud alert to make it harder for an identity thief to open multiple accounts in your name. Call any of the three national credit reporting companies and ask them to place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. They should contact the other two companies about the warning.
While there is a warning on the report, any time a business makes a credit application, they must verify your identity before issuing credit on your behalf. This may require us to contact you, so make sure you have updated your credit report with current contact information. The alert stays on your report for 90 days and allows you to order additional free copies of your report from all three credit reporting companies.
Step 3: Consider a credit freeze. Credit Freeze, also known as a security freeze, gives you maximum control over who can access your credit. It can prevent a thief from opening new accounts in your name because lenders and other creditors cannot get your credit report.
In the event of a credit freeze, even you must take special steps to apply for a loan. You can still open new accounts, apply for jobs, rent an apartment, buy insurance, refinance your mortgage, or do anything else that requires your credit report. However, businesses must verify your identity, so they may need to contact you and you may need to call the reporting company to lift the freeze so that the business can investigate the report. Again, make sure they have the most up-to-date information through your credit report.
A few things to know: Due to strict laws, you must contact each reporting company separately in order to freeze your credit. Also, a credit freeze will not affect your credit score. Ultimately, the cost depends on where you live. If you are 65 years of age or older, or a victim of identity theft, and you file a valid investigative or incident report or complaint with a law enforcement agency or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the fee will be waived.
Step 4: File an identity theft report. Identity Theft Report is a great weapon. You can use it to remove fraudulent information from your credit report; prevents the company from collecting debts resulting from identity theft or from selling the debt to another company for collection purposes. You can also use it to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report and get information about accounts opened or misused by an identity thief.
Reporting identity theft is easy: File a theft complaint with the FTC. When you have finished writing all the details, print a copy of the report. It will be printed as an identity statement.
File a police report of identity theft and obtain a copy of the police report or report number. (Be sure to bring your FTC Identity Theft Statement and attach it to your police report).
Some credit reporting companies may request more information or documentation than is included in the Identity Theft Report. This depends on the credit reporting company’s policies and the business that sent the information about you to the reporting company.
Step 5: Report fraud on existing accounts. If you have an account that shows a fraudulent charge, contact the business immediately. Explain that you are a victim of identity theft. Close the account and follow their reporting process. You can ask if your identity theft report will be accepted. Also, write to each business’s fraud department. By law, they must review your letter, investigate your complaint, and communicate the results of their investigation. If the information is incorrect, the business must notify the credit reporting company. Be sure to get a letter from the business confirming that they have removed the fraudulent information.
On any credit card or bank account that remains open, take steps to protect yourself. Change your password and put passcodes on accounts that allow it. Some accounts include passcodes as an additional level of security. You can usually choose the code word. You may want to consider using something that only you know and that is not public. Finally, constantly monitor your accounts and keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
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