Avoiding Identity Theft
I wish I had been more diligent in avoiding identity theft. I have been a victim of identity theft and I would advise anyone to take the necessary steps to prevent becoming a victim, before it's too late.
Fortunately, I was extremely blessed. The thief did not get far enough to open any accounts in my name. They had my full name, address, phone number, birth date and SSN. With all of this information, they could apply for credit anywhere in my name and I would have known nothing until I received the bill.
Once your identity is stolen, that's it. You live with it for the rest of your life. The minute you realize your identity has been stolen, you should file a police report so that if there are any debts incurred, you have a better chance of fighting them in court. Without the police report, you will have a harder time winning a suit against a creditor.
Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft
- Shred all documents that have any personal information on them. This includes all billing statements, even if they are from years ago.
- Remember, you are dealing with a thief, they are willing to sort through garbage to find a gold mine in personal documents.
- If you buy a shredder, make sure the shredder doesn't just create strips of paper that can be easily pieced back together. The shredder should create small pieces of the document making it impossible to piece it back together for the identity thief.
- If you get credit card offers in the mail, don't just throw them out with the garbage. An identity thief considers this one of the best finds, they apply for credit in your name at a different address and use the enclosed checks.
- If your bank or any other creditor offers paperless statements, opt-in to lessen the risk of your mail getting stolen or misplaced at the post office.
Avoiding Identity Theft on Your Computer
- If you get an email from someone you don't know, don't click on it.
- If you get an email from your bank asking you to update your information (user name or password) but first you need to type in your account information, rest assured it's a scam. Even though the website the email pointed you to looks legit, there's something in the URL that is pointing to a different site where your information will be logged and stolen.
- Taking the necessary steps on your PC will make a big difference when it comes to avoiding identity theft.
Avoiding Identity Theft in case your purse were to be stolen
- If you must carry your debit or credit cards, write "See Id" on the back in the signature line block.
- Do not carry your social security card or your passport in your purse. Both of these should be put in a safe place at home if you aren't in immediate need of using them (like getting your drivers license or traveling).
Freezing Your Credit is the #1 Step in Avoiding Identity Theft
- The most important thing you can do is freeze your credit. You can do this all online for a total of $9.00. Contact all three agencies (Trans Union, Equifax, Experian) and put a security freeze on your credit.
- This will prevent anyone from pulling your credit. This means if your identity is stolen and the thief applies for credit in your name, it will be denied because the creditor cannot access your credit.
- The credit freeze can be lifted at each agency for $3.00 should you decide you need to buy a new car or make a purchase with credit. You use a PIN that the credit agency gave you to lift the freeze.
- I would recommend the freeze be automatically put back on your account within 5 days. You can request this when contacting them about lifting the freeze.
How to Report Identity Theft
- Report Identity Theft to the IRS
- Contact all creditors advising them to place fraud alerts on your accounts.
- Contact all banking institutions you do business with to have them put fraud alerts on your accounts.
- Stop all EFT transactions out of any bank account. This includes online bill pay.
- File a police report in your community or where the theft took place.
Call the fraud units of the three main credit reporting bureaus
- Equifax To report fraud, call (800) 525-6285 or write to P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374-0250.
- Experian To report fraud, call (888) EXPERIAN or (888) 397-3742, fax to (800) 301-7196, or write to P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013.
- TransUnion To report fraud, call (800) 680-7289 or write to P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634.
To sum it up, no one can do enough to protect their identity but you can do something. Having your identity stolen is a pain and something you'll live with for the rest of your life. Do all you can to protect it!!
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