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Id theft – How to avoid it and what to do if you are a victim

Have you got flooded with unwanted credit cards? Have you found listings in your credit report about which you are not aware of? Are you finding your bank accounts being accessed by someone else other than you? Then it is high time you must realize that, there is a thief around stealing your identity and using it to his benefits. The term ‘identity theft’ actually refers to fraud. It means that a person is assuming someone else’s identity to derive monetary and other benefits. It is considered a criminal offence all around the world.

How do you know that your id has been stolen?

There are different instances which indicate towards id theft. They are:

• Listing debts which you do not owe – You have pulled out a credit report and you find that there are debt listings made against your name. The listings are of those debts, which you have never owed. This is a typical instance of identity theft.

• Receive bills for purchases not made- You may receive bills for purchases you have never made. In such an event you know that your identity has been stolen.

• New accounts in your name- It has been found many times that the identity thief has opened a new account using your personal information.

• Loan denied or call received from CA- You may also be denied a loan, or you might receive a call from a collection agency asking to repay the debt. Whenever you find such things happening with you, you know that you are a victim of identity theft.

It is not difficult to take out loans, open new bank accounts, access existing bank accounts, purchase cars, get insurance and perform many other activities with your social security number, date of birth and your name. Hence, you must be extremely careful while handling things which might contain all these personal information. Your creditworthiness depends on your credit report and score, which get badly affected by such instances. So be aware of each and every activity related to your finance.

What to do after you become a victim of identity theft?

Whenever you find out that you have become a victim of identity theft, you must take certain measures as soon as possible. The measures are:

Put a fraud alert

The first thing you need to do after you realize your identity has been stolen, is to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report will stop further activities on the part of the thief. You need to call any one of the credit reporting agencies on their toll free fraud number (TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289) and ask them to put a fraud alert.

After putting a fraud alert on your report, you are entitled to get free credit reports from the bureaus. Check all the information in it to find out any kind of inaccurate details. As soon as you find any discrepancy report it to the bureau. You must remember to use an identity theft report along with a letter explaining the reason of dispute.

File a complaint with the FTC

It is extremely important to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or the FTC. You can either call or place your complaint, or you can use their online complaint form. The FTC complaint form will help you while filing a complaint with the local police station. Other than this, the report can dissuade a CA from collecting the debt from you, permanently block the reappearance of any kind of inaccurate information, and it may also help in extending the fraud alert. The fraud alert initially stays for 90 days. However, if you extend it, then it continues for 7 years.

Lodge a police complaint

You need to file a complaint with the local law enforcement body. While visiting the police station to file a complaint, remember to take the supporting documents to prove your words.

Close existing or new accounts

After you have filed complaints, you need to close to any account you think has been tampered with. Send letters to the concerned creditor or bank requesting to close your account. You must also send proofs that you are suspecting an id theft. In case the thief has used your account, dispute whatever transactions have been made. You can either ask the company to send you fraud dispute forms or you can dispute the entry through your letter. However, remember sending the letter to the ‘billing inquiries’ address of the company. In case you need to close a new account opened by the thief, you can directly dispute it with the company. Remember to send a copy of the ID Theft Affidavit of the FTC.

Which information must be monitored frequently to curb id theft?

You should monitor certain financial information regularly. The financial statements you receive must be checked closely to find out if there any charges which you did not make. It is extremely important to check your credit report at intervals. You are entitled to get a free credit report every 12 months from the 3 major credit reporting agencies. Once you get hold of the report, go through it thoroughly to find out about the latest transactions you have made. If you find any kind of inaccuracy, you must inform the credit reporting agency. Check your personal details properly.

You may also use the credit monitoring service provided by various companies to keep a watch on your credit report and score. Whenever any kind of change takes place in your credit report, you will come to know about it. However, do check the prices and the services provided by the monitoring company properly. Also find out if the company is listed with the Better Business Bureau.

Though it is difficult to control identity theft, yet with a little awareness you can prevent such a mishap. Always, monitor your credit reports and keep a written proof of any documents you are sending anybody. Do not delay to dispute inaccurate information in your credit report. It is not advisable to share your personal information. Always keep yourself updated on what to do if you become an id theft victim.

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