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ID theft

All about how it happens and how you can keep it from happening to you.

September 2010 - Posts

  • When it comes to cleaning up the ID theft mess, time is of the essence

    We've all heard and read about identity theft, and what to do to prevent it – but if you become a victim, do you know what to do?


    If you discover you have been victimized, the first thing you should do, as soon as possible, is to contact your local police or sheriff's department. The police will file a report, and provide you with a copy. Be sure to keep this copy, since you will need it to pursue your case with creditors who have been victimized in your name. You should consider also reporting the incident to your state law enforcement. For a list of state attorneys general, go to www.naag.org.


    If someone is illegally using your bank account, close the account right away and ask your bank to notify the check verification service. The service will notify retailers not to honor checks written on the account. To find out if someone is passing bad checks in your name, call Shared Check Authorization Network at 800-262-7771.


    If you think someone has opened a new checking account in your name, ask for a free copy of your consumer report from Chex Systems by calling 800-428-9623.


    Call one of the three major credit reporting agencies. The law requires the first to contact the other two. The agencies will flag your account, which means that any business that wishes to extend credit to you will first have to verify your identity. Call the credit bureaus at: 800-525-6285, Equifax; 888-397-3742, Experian; 800-680-7289, TransUnion.


    Work with your creditors if you find unauthorized charges on your credit report or billing statement. You should also report your case to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-IDTHEFT.


    Call the Social Security Administration's Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271 or fill out an online report at www.socialsecurity.gov/oig if your number has been stolen. 


    If you suspect that a thief is using your mailing address to commit a crime, call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 800-275-8777.


    Remember: act quickly. Time is of the essence to prevent further damage to your credit or fraud. Keep accurate records of all conversations, including names, agencies, phone numbers, dates and times. Keep copies of all e-mails. Never mail originals; send out copies instead, notarized if necessary. Use certified mail, return receipt requested.


    And above all, be persistent. It can take time and effort to clean up the mess.

    Posted Sep 29 2010, 11:43 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • What if you find fraudulent information on your credit report?

    Like most consumers, you are aware that you are entitled to a free annual copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You understand that it won’t just be sent to you; it must be requested. 


    So you request reports from all three agencies, and you begin your review of each one, being careful to not assume that the same information will appear on each one. If you discover any discrepancies, it’s important to act immediately, as this could indicate that you have become a victim of identity theft.


    The information that appears on your credit report should include the following:


    • Identifying information – Your name, address and Social Security number, date of birth and employment information are factors used to identify you. These factors do not affect your credit score. The information is based upon data you have supplied to lenders.


    • Trade lines – These are your credit accounts. Each account you have established with a lender is reported here. The lender reports the type of account you have, the date you opened the account, the credit limit or loan amount, payment history and your current account balance.


    • Credit inquiries – Any time you apply for a loan, you authorize a lender to ask for a copy of your credit report. The report shows a list of everyone who has accessed your credit report for the past two years. The entries will be listed as voluntary, such as when you open an account, or involuntary, such as when lenders order your report to make a pre-approved credit offer in the mail.


    • Public record and collection items – Credit reporting agencies also collect public record information from state and county reports, and information on overdue debt from collection agencies. This public record could include foreclosures, bankruptcies, lawsuits, wage attachments, liens and judgments. 


    If you find fraudulent information, such as accounts you did not open or auto loans you did not sign for, it is important to act immediately.


    Contact each of the three credit reporting agencies and request that fraud alerts be placed on your reports. After the alerts are placed, contact the police department in the county where you believe the theft took place. Once these steps have been completed, your creditor and the police will attempt to catch the identity thief.


    Posted Sep 22 2010, 11:57 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Apathy shouldn't even be on the menu when it comes to ID theft

    We ran across an article that gave twelve reasons why consumers are losing the battle against identity theft. We felt the information has merit, so we're sharing it with you…


    1. Zero liability has consumers feeling like they have nothing to lose. This comes from a blend of federal law and marketing by financial institutions, which shifts losses to identity theft from consumers to the financial industry. Absorption by the financial community may keep their customers happy, but it has given consumers a false sense of security.


    2. Law enforcement lacks the resources to handle ID theft cases. Most police departments will admit that they investigate only roughly less than 1 percent of identity cases. This is mainly due to their lack of resources. 


    3. Consumers think the battle's already being won. People have become apathetic to identity theft in the past few years, either because they feel they have little to lose or because they wrongly believe the "enemy" is retreating. This apathy has led to a decrease in vigilance.


    4. Organized crime has given identity theft a new energy by pumping millions of dollars into it, and by operating in areas where law enforcement can't or won't reach them. 


    5. Financial institutions need to talk with their customers about identity theft, and educate them about it and other security risks. 


    6. The small business community is still ignoring its responsibility by not making data and customer protection a priority.


    7. Thieves have become bolder because they know they're not likely to be caught.


    8 Consumers are not protecting their computers or changing their habits. Most don't check their credit report, don't change their passwords often enough and don't update their computer security often enough.


    9. Check verification still has too many loopholes. Although there are sophisticated technologies in place to verify that a check is legitimate, many stores just don't bother using them. Identity thieves know this and have become masters at creating fake but legitimate-looking checks.


    10. Many banks are not using all the authentication and verification options available because they think more security challenges will annoy customers. 


    11. Consumers are giving away too much personal information on social networking sites. 


    12. Businesses and consumers are becoming indifferent to data breaches. There have been so many of them, that consumers are shrugging them off. 


    Don't shrug off identity theft. Be vigilant and protect your personal information. You can't afford this kind of apathy.

    Posted Sep 15 2010, 11:22 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Get savvy: know a scam when you see one

    Identifying fraud is getting more and more tricky. Criminals have become more and more creative, and increasingly clever about disguising their methods. And on top of that, they’re using more sophisticated technology to commit crime.


    Perhaps the most devious tactic being employed by criminals is that they are now targeting their crime. The most vulnerable are being targeted – weary homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure are enticed with foreclosure scams, while those drowning in debt are duped by offers to clean up or eliminate debt with little or no effort by the debtor.


    But there are ways to recognize a scam. First, if you are told an offer will expire if you don’t respond immediately or quickly, and you feel pressured to make a decision, the offer could be fraudulent. Always take your time before committing to anything. You may also want to discuss the offer with friends. Others can often discern when an offer isn’t forthcoming.


    Search for the company, the individuals and the offer online. If it is a scam, chances are you’ll find information about it online. 


    If the offer is from a well-known company, confirm it with them. Don’t just assume that because the offer says it’s from a particular company that that’s the case. Always confirm. Make sure that the phone numbers, links and addresses that came with the offer are legitimate.


    One rule of thumb recommended by law enforcement officers is to ask yourself, “If I were made this same offer on the street, would I give out my personal information?” If not, then you shouldn’t give it out online.


    If you can’t figure out any other way to determine whether something is legitimate, rely on your gut instincts. If you have any doubts about a particular offer, just don’t do it. Better safe than sorry.

    Posted Sep 09 2010, 11:07 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • How long does it take to clear up the mess after identity theft?

    Identity theft can take anywhere from a few hours to a few years to repair. But it can feel like a lifetime.


    Repairing the damage done by identity theft can be time consuming, expensive and emotionally draining ordeal for a victim who's already reeling from the feeling of personal violation.


    The surest sign that  crook has stolen your personal information is when bills start coming for things you haven't bough or when lenders deny you credit for reasons you don't understand. The worst case scenario is when a victim ends up flat broke or in jail for crimes he didn't commit.


    Millions of people have become victims of identity theft in the past few years, and the recovery process, on average, takes about 500 hours and costs about $3,000.


    The key to recovery is to stop and deal with the damage right away. There are a few basic steps you should take to get your life back on track.


    • Notify creditors that the account is fraudulent and that you are a victim of identity theft.

    • File a police report.

    • Place a 90-day fraud alert on credit bureau files.

    • Obtain all three credit reports and review them for fraudulent accounts, inquiries and personal information.

    • Complete an ID theft affidavit.

    • Submit the police report and affidavit to creditors.

    • Request that they investigate, clear the account, send a letter of resolution for the victim's record and notify the credit bureaus to expunge the account and any inquiries from linked files.

    • Follow up with creditors and credit bureaus until complete.

    • Place an extended seven-year alert or freeze on all three credit bureau files to protect against future ID theft attempts.


    To protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft, make sure to protect your personal information. Don't carry you Social Security card in your wallet. Don't give out your personal information, including your SSN, and banking and credit card numbers.


    Make sure to shred any documents that contain your personal information before you dispose of them.


    You should also protect your personal information on your computer. Use strong passwords, and install a firewall, as well as virus and spyware protection software.

    Posted Sep 01 2010, 11:55 AM by IdentityTheft with 1 comment(s)
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