Identity theft and the related fraud that can occur are serious. Identity theft can cause victims to spend hundreds of dollars and a great deal of time to repair the damage. Victims have been denied loans, housing and job opportunities. Identity theft happens when someone obtains someone else's personal information and uses it for their personal gain. Thieves can obtain credit cards, open bank accounts, get cash, or buy things on an individual's existing credit cards along with a number of other crimes that can be accomplished with someone else's personal information. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. The problem has now reached the point where many people are purchasing identity theft protection insurance and services to assist them if their identities are stolen.
Things You Will Need
Computer firewalls, Anti-virus software, Anti-spyware software, paper shredder
Everyone should check their credit reports from all three reporting bureaus often and watch bank and credit card statements carefully. Look for any unauthorized ATM withdrawals, debit or credit charges. Also, know the billing dates of your monthly statements. Bills that do not arrive on time may have been misdirected by identity thieves. Identity theft can happen quickly.
Do everything possible to protect personal information such as social security numbers, credit and debit card numbers and any other personal information that could be used to steal an identity. Always shred financial documents and paperwork that have personal information. Also, keep your personal information in a secure place in your home.
Never give out financial or personal information over the phone or the internet, unless the company is known and trusted. Also, always try to be the one to initiate the phone call and do not click on links sent in unsolicited email. Many criminals will do what is called "phishing". This is where the criminals will call or send an internet e-mail and request information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers and other personal information by claiming to be from a trusted company or government agency.
If you are, or suspect, you are a victim of identity theft you should immediately report it to the three credit reporting bureaus and have them put a "fraud alert" on your credit files. You should also file a police report and get a copy of the report to help you protect yourself legally when dealing with creditors. In addition, you should call and notify each creditor by asking to speak to someone in the security or fraud department and close any accounts that are believed to have been compromised by an identity thief.
Always be diligent and protective of your identity. Criminals are always coming up with new tricks and scams. It is important to stay ever vigil and check your credit reports often. Stay up to date with the latest scams.
Tips & Warnings
Remember, if someone really wants the information it is next to impossible to keep them from getting it but you can make it hard for them. Unfortunately, in many cases the perpetrators of these crimes are untraceable and are therefore impossible to locate and prosecute. This is in spite of the best efforts of law enforcement agencies at all levels.