Definition: If a stranger or someone other then yourself uses your personal information without permission then you are a tragic victim of identity theft.
Nine million Americans fall victim to this kind of fraud each year, affecting innocent individuals each and everyday. An individual goes to use their credit card, check book or personal information and finds out, much to their horror, that there identity has been stolen. None of us should have to worry about fraud of this type but there are so many thieves out there searching for their next victim, we need to worry, we need to protect ourselves.
Fraud using a stolen Identity is a growing problem within our society, it isn’t enough to just define identity theft. We need to understand why and how it happens.
Nowadays, people have a new way to buy and shop. People use credit cards instead of cash. They purchase goods and services online instead of at a store. Instead of going to the bank people have online bank accounts. This is called the plastic era or the wireless generation. We have the convenience and opportunity to purchase goods from around the world; to pay our bills at two o’clock in the morning; or to check our bank statement from home.
Technology has brought about tremendous advances but technology has also advanced the common criminal. It seems that a new breed of criminal has been born. This type of criminal steals someone’s identity in order to commit fraudulent acts.
Thieves are on the look out for our personal information so they can obtain credit cards, bank loans, utility services, wireless phone service and more by using our identity. Victims can suffer from damaged credit reports, drained bank accounts and even a criminal record.
Some thieves will give your personal information when they are arrested. This causes embarrassment to you as it creates a criminal record. Often, victims of identity theft do not find out they have been victimized until they receive their bank statement or credit card statement in the mail or when they are turned down for a loan or apartment rental.
Identity Theft Solutions – How It Happens
Many times someone will use your social security number, name or credit card number to commit fraudulent acts. This is illegal and there are laws to help the victims.
An identity thief can find out your personal information by taking certain items from your trash. This could be a credit card or bank statement. That is why it is so important to shred all off your personal documents.
Some thieves rack up a huge debt on your credit card or use your name to obtain property. This is a crime that you probably will not find out about until a month or more has passed.
There are several more ways in which someonecan get your personal information.
Many thieves are skilled in the practice of retrieving information by dumpster diving. Dumpster Diving is where a thief goes through personal garbage searching for items that have your information on it.
They also use skimming where they steal your credit or debit card number after your card has been processed. This technique usually requires a device to store the numbers in.
Identity thieves use the popular method of phishing. This is where the thief pretends to be a reputable company or financial business e-mailing you in order to find out your private information. That is why residents are warned not to give out there information to companies or websites that are unknown to them or not protected with special security features.
Thieves will fill out a change of address form with the Post Office in order to have your bank or credit card statements mailed directly to them.
Many thieves still act as pickpockets. They will steal your purse or wallet to obtain your personal information. All of these situations mentioned above are traumatic and devastating scenarios.
Identity thieves could also obtain your personal information through the act of pretexting. This is where they use fake identities in order to steal information. People called pretexters will sell your information to individuals who may use it to steal your money, get credit, to sue you or even to investigate you. This is a common practice that is against the law.
Pretexters use several different techniques in order to receive your personal information. They may pretend to be working for a research company. Under this false pretense they will try to get your name, address, birth date and social security number. After the pretexter has received your personal information they may call your bank in order to obtain even more information. Therefore you are at an even greater risk of losing so much. They can obtain your credit card numbers, bank account numbers and information on how much money is in your account. People do not deserve to have everything taken away from them in a matter of minutes.
It is illegal for people to use false statements to receive personal information. A person is not allowed to use stolen, lost or forged documents to obtain someone’s information. They also are not allowed to use another person, under fraudulent means, to obtain the information they want. All of these practices are illegal and anyone who is arrested for them is punishable under the context of the law.
What Thieves Do With Your Personal Information
There are several different things that thieves can do with your stolen personal information. They can open credit card accounts in your name and change your billing address so you will not receive these statements in the mail. Identity thieves are known to commit utilities or phone fraud. They may open a phone account or use your name to acquire utility service or television service.
Your personal information can be used to write counterfeit checks under your bank account number or they may open a bank account in your name and bounce checks. They can drain your bank account by using your debit card number or they can commit another form of bank fraud by receiving a loan in your name.
Identity thieves have an endless list of fraudulent and illegal acts they commit. Some use your information to rent an apartment or they give your name during a police arrest or get a job using your social security number.
The saddest part about this kind of criminal act is that most victims have no idea this is happening until it is too late. Every American citizen works too hard and too long to have a thief steal everything. Money can be lost, credit reports damaged and a reputation tainted due to someone else’s criminal activity.
Victims of a stolen identity often feel violated, and have lost their trust in others. This is a crime in which the victims do not even know they are being attacked. If you feel that you are a victim of identity theft you should report this to the authorities immediately.
In a perfect world this would never happen but because we don’t live in a perfect world, we must take measures to protect ourselves. Our identity is who we are and it used to be said that no one can take that away from us. Identity thieves are proving this statement to be false.
Get active and defend your good credit. YES, you can actually prevent it!
Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
Learn the three most important prevention steps. The three steps in protecting your personal information are to Deter, Detect and Defend. The Federal Trade Commission has designed these three steps in order to prevent identity theft from happening to innocent and unsuspecting individuals, like you!
- Deter = Do what you can to protect yourself against it
- Detect = Keep an eye on your credit report so you can detect fraud early
- Defend = Fight identity theft. Do the 5 steps to Recover!
Identity theft is an illegal crime that is committed against hundreds of American citizens each day. Victims often suffer from the countless negative repercussions.
The victim may not be able to obtain a loan for an automobile or a home. The victim may be turned down for an apartment rental because of a harmful credit report. An identity theft victim may find out that their bank accounts have been emptied and that their credit card limits have been maxed out. Identity thieves take your personal information to obtain loans, credit cards and other services. This is a crime that is of a grave nature.
It is illegal for anyone to steal your personal information and commit fraudulent acts. Parts of your life can utterly be destroyed but the good news is that there are three important steps in protecting yourself against the atrocities and cruelties of identity theft.
You deter an identity thief when you safeguard your personal information. Here are the precautions everyone needs to take:
It is critical that you protect your social security number. Do not give your social security number out over the phone or over the internet to a company that you our unfamiliar with.
If you are establishing a new account you should check the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau. This can let you know how the company has handled cases of identity theft in the past.
If it is an online business, you are dealing with, make sure that their site has specific security features in order to protect the information that you give them.
It is important to shred any mail containing personal information before you throw it in the trash. Identity thieves have been known to sort through people’s trash in order to obtain what they need to steal your identity.
Another way to deter identity thieves is to select tricky passwords. Do not pick a password that is common knowledge or easily attained information. This means that people should not use their birth dates, phone numbers, social security numbers or names of family members when choosing a password. This will aid in the protection of your bank account and credit/debit account.
Always verify the sources you are sharing your personal information with. This is an important step that is essential in making sure that an identity thief is not stealing your information.
The Last 3 Protection Steps To Take
Always protect your purse or wallet. Do not leave either unattended or with someone you do not know well.
Store all of your information in a secure and locked location. This way an identity thief will not be able to obtain your personal information and this can help you in preventing your identity from being stolen.
Your next step in the setting up of a successful defense against identity theft is to detect the early warning signs of identity theft. This means that you are to routinely review your bank account statements, credit card statements, billing statements and credit report.
While you are checking your financial statements you should review them to make sure that there are not purchases on them that you did not make.
Check the company names and make sure that you were the one that shopped there. Also, check your bank statement for any suspicious withdrawals.
Make sure that you are not getting any strange mail such as other credit card or bank accounts that are open in your name but you were not the one to open them. If you receive loan information or utility bills in the mail that you did not open, call the company’s fraud department immediately.
You should review your credit report at least twice a year, or use a protection service. If you notice any suspicious activity contact your local police department to report identity theft. Always keep a close eye on your financial records this is the best way to ensure that you have not become a victim of identity theft.
Always be on the look out for the occurrence of identity theft. Make sure that your accounts are accurate.
Also, if you stop receiving your billing statements or other mail notify your creditors immediately. Identity thieves have activated change of address forms in the past to obtain someone’s personal information.
Question the receipt of credit cards in the mail that you did not order.
If you are rejected for a loan but believe your credit is in good standing be wary of fraudulent charges made.
If you happen to receive debt collection calls from a business you have never used before stay alert for the possibility that identity theft could have occurred.
The third and final step against identity theft is to defend yourself as soon as you suspect a problem. This entails contacting the police, filing a report, notifying your financial institutions, placing a fraud alert through the three consumer reporting agencies and filing a compliant with the Federal Trade Commission. If you follow all of these steps, they will assist in the capture and tracking down of the identity thief.
There is no fool-proof plan to protect yourself against identity theft but if you follow these three steps you can lessen your chances of becoming a victim.
Remember to deter, detect and defend against identity theft!
This is not a victimless crime as it affects millions of Americans each year. You can help minimize your chance of becoming one of it’s next victims. Nobody volunteers to be a victim of identity theft that is why it is so important to follow these prevention measures.
How to avoid Identity Theft? You can hire a commercial service that will monitor your credit report for you. Whether you have a hectic schedule but still want to protect yourself, or you just want to be sure, this is an excellent option. Credit monitoring will send you notices anytime your credit report is accessed, as well as anytime someone applies for credit in your name! Don’t you think it’s time to check Identity Theft off your list of worries?
5 Steps to Document Your Identity Theft Case
Proper management and reporting will help you recover faster from having your identity stolen. If you are a victim there are five steps in documenting your Identity Theft case that you should not hesitate to take right now!
Step 1 – Put a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report
First of all, you should review your credit report and place your credit report on fraud alert. A fraud alert protects you from an identity thief being able to open up any more illegal accounts under your name.
There are three companies that you can call, toll-free, to have your credit report put on fraud alert. If you call one of the three companies they are required by law to notify the other two companies of the alert.
You should receive a confirmation from the company that a fraud alert has been put into effect. If the company does not send you confirmation you should call them directly.
A fraud alert is your first line of protection, after your information has been wrongfully stolen, from an identity thief.
You should alert one of the following three companies in order to begin a fraud alert:
- TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289 or
- Equifax at 1-800-525-6285 or
- Experian at 1-888-397-3742.
Step 2 – Get Your Credit Report
After a fraud alert has been established you are entitled to a free credit report from each of these three companies. Make sure to carefully look over your credit report, looking for any fraudulent accounts or loans. The main thing to pay attention to would be loans, credit cards, or bank accounts that you did not open.
Any fraudulent information needs to be erased from your credit report to restore your good credit rating. It is very important to check your credit reports every few months or maintain credit monitoring protection. This will ensure that an identity thief has not committed more criminal acts under your name. The best way to obtain this protection is to use a credit monitoring service. I recommend you use credit monitoring to fix the problems on your credit report and then maintain your good credit standing.
Step 3 – Close Fraudulent Accounts
Your next step to overcoming the traumatic affects of identity theft is to close any accounts that have been opened or tampered with. You can do this by speaking with the fraud department of each fraudulent entry on your credit report. Explain your situation and the fact that you want to close the account. After this conversation you should write the company and send them copies of statements from the fraudulent accounts. All letters should be sent certified mail only; this will protect you in case you are forced to go to court.
Keep a record of all of the telephone calls, correspondence and receipts. This is your main form of evidence.
Step 4 – Send Creditor(s) Letter of Dispute
If an identity thief made fraudulent charges on your accounts, send a letter to dispute all of those charges. The letter should be mailed to the credit card company’s billing department under the heading “billing inquiries”. The company may have already reported the activity on your credit report and if so you will have to go about correcting that particular information. When you report credit card fraud, the company should send you a letter that they have closed the account.
Step 5 – Report Identity Theft to the Authorities
A complaint should be filed with the Federal Trade Commission by every victim of identity theft. The information you provide the Federal Trade Commission allows members of law enforcement to track down and punish identity thieves. This is the only way to stop identity theft from reoccurring. The Federal Trade Commission takes your compliant to other companies and government agencies for investigation and action purposes. A complaint can be filed by using the Federal Trade Commission’s online form or by calling them at 1-877-438-4338. This number goes directly to their Identity Theft Hotline. If the identity thief strikes again it would be wise for you to file an additional complaint.
Lastly, it is crucial that you file an identity theft report with your local police department. Keep a copy of the initial police report for your own personal file. Companies may want you to show them a copy of this to prove that there was a crime committed. The police officer handling your compliant should not only give you a copy of the police report but also an Identity Theft Report. It is extremely important that they fill out an Identity Theft Report.
Document Your Case & Identity Theft Recovery Summary
All of these steps are critical in order to start putting the pieces of your life back together after an attack of identity theft. It is a shame that anyone must suffer through this process. Through the complaints of identity theft victims and the dedicated work of law enforcement officials this may one day be a crime committed only in the past.
You get one free copy of your credit report as mentioned above, but you need more! Get as many copies as you need as often as you need them to keep updated as well as email notices when someone tries to access your credit report or open a new account in your name. Be proactive to protect your credit with credit monitoring.