By: Investor Solutions
Everywhere you turn these days you hear stories of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that approximately 9 million Americans have their identities stolen every year. Being the victim of identity theft is much more than just an inconvenience, it can be a monumental pain in your financial life. It can not only affect your good name, it can affect your credit and your ability to obtain loans and even secure a job. Let’s not mention being falsely imprisoned.
There are numerous ways in which thieves can obtain your personal information in order to commit identity theft. These include going through your trash to find bills or account statements, stealing credit/debit card information when you use them to make purchases, pose as financial institutions and send you spam email requesting personal information, etc. There is also the good old fashion stealing of wallets and purses.
In this day and age it is imperative to be vigilant in protecting your assets and your good name. One obvious way to protect your privacy includes using extreme caution when supplying your Social Security number. Just because someone asks for it, doesn’t mean you have to give it away. Other ways to protect your privacy include destroying documents that contain:
- account numbers or credit card numbers such as voided checks or credit card statements
- credit card offers that you receive in the mail
- employment information such as pay stubs or employment records
- email addresses so as to avoid receiving spam messages
- signatures and passwords
- health records
A $60 investment in a shredder from your local office supply store can help you destroy these documents.
Despite your best efforts, identity theft can still occur. So how do you find out if it has happened to you? Checking your account statements on a monthly basis and your credit report regularly will help you discover whether or not someone has been tampering with your personal information. If you fail to do these simple checks, you may find out the hard way by receiving calls from collection agencies, mortgage companies and the like.
Taking these precautions can go a long way to ensuring that you are not the victim of identity theft. What if, in spite of taking these precautionary steps, you still find yourself victimized? First, file an ID Theft Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Then, take this complaint with you to your local police department where you will file an Identity Theft Report. When presented to the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Trans Union and Experian) or any company the thief falsely conducted business, this report can permanently block fraudulent information such as accounts or addresses from appearing on your credit report in the future. Additionally, it can prevent these debts from reappearing on credit reports. Next call your creditors and dispute any transactions that the perpetrator may have made. You also want to check your credit report and see how the theft may have affected it. Don’t procrastinate! Take action to correct the situation immediately.
Depending on the situation, the repercussions of identity theft can last a short or long time. For the first year after the theft, check your credit report every three months and annually thereafter. And stay vigilant. If somebody does you wrong the first time, shame on them. If they do you wrong a second time, shame on you!