In today's society, identity theft has become a major issue and is a serious crime. While victims of identity theft can spend time and money to clean up the mess thieves have created, a victim's good name and credit record are not easily reconciled. However, there are some steps you can take, as outlined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to minimize your risk by managing personal information cautiously.
How Identity Theft Occurs
Skilled identity thieves use a variety of ways to gain access to your personal information. Here are a few ways:
- They may steal your wallet or purse
- They may steal your personal information through e-mail or phone by saying they are from a legitimate company and claiming you have a problem with your account.
- They may rummage through your trash to find information
- They may steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, new checks, and tax information
How can you tell if you’re a Victim of Identity Theft?
- Failing to receive bills or other mail
- (This could mean an identity theft has submitted a change of address.)
- Receiving credit cards you did not apply for
- Denial of credit for no apparent reason
- Receiving calls from debt collectors or other companies about merchandise or services you did not buy
The easiest way to find out if someone has stolen your identity is to receive and review your credit report on an annual basis to review transactions and credit pulls.
Getting Your Credit Report
The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the major reporting companies to provide a free credit report, at your request, once every twelve months. Here is how:
- Visit: www.annualfreecreditreport.com
- Call Toll Free: 1-877-322-8228
- Complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
- Annual Credit Report Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348
- You can print this form from: www.ftc.gov/credit
If Your Personal Information Has Been Lost or Stolen:
Quick action is key to prevent your identity theft from spreading completely or getting out of hand.
Here are some speedy steps to take:
- Place fraud alert on your credit reports and review them
- Fraud reports help prevent an identity theft from opening any more accounts in your name
- You can place this alert by calling any one of the three consumer credit reporting companies:
- Equifax 1-800-525-6285
- Experian 1-888-EXPERIAN
- TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
- Close accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently
- Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department
- Follow up in writing with supporting documents and request a return receipt for personal documentation
- File a police report with your local authorities
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
- FTC's Identity Theft Hotline: 1-877-ID-THEFT
For more information visit the FTC at: www.consumer.gov/theft