Identity theft is reaching epidemic proportions today. You cannot afford to just sit back and hope it doesn’t happen. You need to be prepared to stop and repair the damage as quickly as possible.
To have the best odds of being able to repair the damage identity theft can do, you need to find out as quickly as possible when someone has stolen your identity. The faster you stop it, the less damage that can be done. Of course you can always pay for a service that promises to keep track of this for you, but there are ways you can do just as good a job for free.
How Do I Know If I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?
Here are some tips on how you can track whether your identity has been stolen.
1. Utilize Your Free Credit Report
Take advantage of the free credit reports that the law requires the credit reporting agencies to give you each year. Many people do this incorrectly by asking for all three major credit reports at once.
Don’t make this mistake. Every 3 months, go to the website set up by the credit reporting agencies and request a report from one of the 3 major credit reporting agencies that take part. This way you can get a credit report each quarter for free.
There will be small differences between the reports from different credit reporting agencies, but most likely nothing significant. Therefore, you can know early on whether accounts are being set up in your name without your permission. If you find such an account, you are allowed to request all your credit reports without having to wait a year.
2. Keep Close Track of Credit Cards
As renewal time nears, many banks and credit card companies will actually notify you by email when they are sending out your new card. If your current card is about to expire and you haven’t received a new one, this might be a sign that someone has stolen the card from your mailbox.
In addition, keep a close watch on your monthly statements for odd charges. This could indicate that someone has duplicated your card. Thieves have scanners which can grab your information from the cards in your pockets as you walk down the street! If you see any odd charges, contact your credit card issuer immediately.
3. Watch Out for Strange Change of Address Forms
This should seem obvious, but most people don’t pay attention to this and throw away the post office notices advising them that there has been a change of address initiated. Thieves commonly file these in order to grab your account information by simply having it forwarded to them.
I am a Victim of Identity Theft. What Should i do?
If any of the above techniques hint that your identity has been stolen, you need to take action right away. What do you need to do?
1. Lodge a Police Report
The first thing you should do is to file a police report. Unfortunately, many local police will be essentially uncooperative as you try to do this, but you can insist and should be persistent until you get a police report filed.
Usually the police will do little or nothing to track down the culprits, but having a police report will help protect you when the grantors of these fraudulent accounts start trying to come after you for payment.
2. File a Fraud Affidavit
You will then need to contact all 3 credit bureaus and file a fraud affidavit. This will help you later in cleaning up your credit. Some authorities suggest you also have a fraud alert added to your credit report, but the best course of action is to go beyond that and actually have your credit frozen. This will mean that no new credit can be opened at all.
Unfortunately, many potential creditors just ignore or overlook the fraud alerts, but they can’t ignore it when your credit report is frozen. Freezing your credit can be a little bit of a hassle for you if you want to open a new account, but it is much less of a hassle than having fraudulent accounts opened in your name.
3. Contact Your Bank
You will also need to contact your bank and your creditors and possibly have your current account numbers changed.
This also will be a hassle for you, but not as bad as losing money would be.
While taking these steps you should keep detailed notes. Write down the name and job title of every single person you speak to as well as the date and time the conversation occurred. Unfortunately when you have your identity stolen, problems will tend to keep reoccurring over time and having detailed records will make it easier to clean things up each time.
Don’t be caught unaware and let identity thieves go wild before you notice the damage. If you keep alert, you will be able to repair the damage from identity theft much faster.