Identity theft is a serious crime that can affect someone’s life forever, if not caught in time. The thieves steal your personal information including your social security number, phone number, address, and financial account information.
With this information, they either use existing accounts or start new ones. They typically take this credit information to buy themselves cars, take out mortgages or go on shopping sprees. There are a few things that can be done to try and prevent this from happening to you.
Keeping your personal information safe is the easiest way to prevent credit card fraud from occurring. The thieves cannot steal your information if they cannot access this.
The easiest way to do this is to shred everything. Clever con artists even have spent time piecing together shredded documents, so buying a shredding machine that turns documents into paper confetti is the best idea.
If sharing your information over the phone, never give out your information unless you personally made the call and know it is actually the bank. Do not text back random numbers claiming to be the bank, many scams happen this way. If you do share your information with anyone, make sure to ask them what will be done with it and make sure they are trustworthy.
Mailboxes are often a target for these information stealing thieves. Unlocked mailboxes are very easy to enter and taking important mail with confidential information enclosed is an easy task for them. Therefore, make sure you have a secured mailbox.
Have all bills sent to you electronically, this new way to receive bills has been very helpful in keeping identity thieves at bay due to the bills being harder for the thieves to obtain.
Keep all passwords strong and hidden.
The biggest mistake that most people make is leaving their passwords out on the open on a piece of paper so that they won’t forget. Make the password something unique that only you would understand. Also, refrain from using the same password for everything.
Once they figure out that you use the same password for everything, their ability to infiltrate your life and personal information open right up. Do this with your pin number as well. Most people make their pin numbers something easy like “1234”.
A lot of people use this as their pin number and it is always the first thing that a thief will try. Make it unique to you and keep it safe. Make sure no one is looking when you punch it into a credit card machine or ATM.
Keep your credit and debit cards separate from your wallet. If your wallet is stolen, the thief will not have access to your banking information, only the cash that is in the wallet at the time. If your wallet and cards are stolen, cancel them immediately. Setting up bank and credit card alerts can help further help protect you.
Noticing Peculiar Charges
View your account information regularly and look at all purchases. If you see anything strange or do not remember making a certain charge, alert your bank and credit card providers immediately.
Most banks and credit card providers will remove the charge and conduct a small investigation. If the damage is severe, the bank may freeze your accounts until further information is given.
The only one who can protect you against credit card fraud is you. Sometimes it is inevitable, but can be quickly fixed if the problem is addressed promptly after the charges.
Repairing the Damage to Your Credit after Identity Theft
In an age where technology is a part of every aspect of our lives, there are certain dangers that come with our information being readily available. Identity theft is on the rise since most information can be found in one of the millions of databases that store our personal information.
NBC report in 2011, 7.7 million Americans were victims of identity theft. That is an increase of 2.2 million since 2010. The rise in ID theft is attributed mostly to credit card fraud, running up millions of credit cards and damaging credit across the country.
Many of these victims are users of smartphones, tablets, and laptops who don’t properly secure their devices, leaving them open for thieves to gain their information.
As well, the banks have been unable to properly secure their back end fraud prevention systems due to the recession and budget cuts. Regardless of the cause, ID theft can harm your credit and your peace of mind.
So what can you do if you are a victim of ID theft or credit card fraud? There are steps you can take that will clear your name and get your credit back on track. Just don’t expect an overnight fix.
Finding Errors on Your Credit Report
It is a sad fact that many of us fail to keep an eye on our credit until it is too late. When you receive the call from a bill collector trying to collect on an account you never had, it is a good time to see what is on your credit report.
Each year you have given a free credit report form the 3 primary credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. If you were denied credit for any reason, you are given the chance to request another credit report at that time also.
On your credit report, you will see every open account you currently have. From car loans to credit cards, every line of credit will be listed.
If you see an account you are not familiar with, it may have been opened by an identity thief. Check with your open accounts and make sure you didn’t open that account before disputing it.
Disputing Credit Errors
Once you have determined there are lines of credit that are not yours, you need to dispute these accounts. On your credit report, your creditors are listed, most often with their contact information.
Disputing these accounts it a long process, so don’t expect them to immediately be deleted from your credit. The credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to disputes, so patience is key.
Once you have disputed your credit errors with the bureau, you will also need to notify the fraud department of the creditor listed on your credit report.
This will allow them to know there has been a case of ID theft and they will begin their own investigation as well. Like the credit bureau’s request account information from the creditor, the creditor will also be checking the validity of the account.
From this point, you must wait for a response from the credit bureau as well as the fraud departments associated with each account. They will contact you with their findings and if all is well, you will receive a new credit report with the accounts removed from the credit bureaus. This is the end result that will show your credit is repaired.
Preventing ID Theft in the Future
If you have been a victim of ID or credit card theft, you will be more cautious to not let it happen again. If you are shopping online, shop at trusted sites that have proper security. Don’t give your personal information to anyone you don’t know.
You will also need to secure the devices you use for online transactions. Your phone, tablet, and computer can be locked with a password. The extra 5 seconds it takes to logon is worth saving the time and effort to repair your credit in the future.
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