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How to Report Identity Theft

August 22, 2007

If your identity has been stolen you need to act immediately to minimize the damage. Where should you start?

Identify the fraudulent accounts that have been opened in your name by someone else. You’ll find them on your credit report. Very possibly, the way you’ll find out you have fraudulent accounts is from a collections agency coming after you for overdue payments. Don’t talk to the collections agency about this – call the lender directly and let them know this account wasn’t opened by you.

If the theft involves someone using your existing credit card accounts, bank accounts or other lines of credit, call the bank, store or credit card companies right away and report it. This will alert them of the theft and minimize your damages and liabilities.

Then report identity theft to the following agencies, depending on your specific circumstances.

Report Identity Theft to the Federal Trade Commission

If you have any difficulty when you try to report identity theft to any of the above institutions involved in your case, hang up and call the FTC instead.

Mandated by the Identity Theft & Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 to receive and process complaints from identity theft victims, the FTC is also given the responsibility under federal law to refer complaints to the appropriate agencies. This includes the major credit and police agencies.

You have two options:
– Use their hotline, 1-877-IDTHEFT (or 1-877-438-4338)
– Use their complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

Contact the Police

File a report with your local law enforcement. This is important because it establishes a time and date that you discovered the theft and shows you took action. If your identity was stolen when you were away from home, you may need to contact the police in that jurisdiction, too.

Opening a police case accomplishes two things:

  • First, the police can start investigating the crime.
  • Second, you will need information from the police report to help you straighten out your credit and accounts after the crime.

When you talk to the police, make sure you get the police report number and information on how to reach the investigator. Give this information to all the companies you contact in getting your credit cleared up after the crime. Ask for a copy of the police report – you may or may not be able to get one. Ask anyway.

Report Identity Theft to the Social Security Administration

Okay, here’s the bad news: The SSA doesn’t give help to victims of identity theft. But they have mechanisms in place so you can fix the problem.

You have three options:
– Use their hotline 800-269-0271
– Use their complaint form at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/oig
– Change your number (Only an option if you fit the SSA’s victim of fraud criteria. Visit http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html for details.)

More bad news: Even if your SSN has been hijacked and report identity theft to all the proper entities, getting a new SSN may not make the problem go away completely.

A new SSN is not an assurance that you’ll get a fresh credit record. Bureaus may end up combining all your credit files from both your old and new SSNs anyway.

What’s more, even when your fraudulent history is no longer attached to your new SSN, having no credit history under a new SSN may make it hard for you to get credit.

Report Identity Theft to the Three Major Credit Bureaus

You should be familiar with these three offices, since you must already be requesting free, periodic credit reports from them by now.

Call the following numbers to report identity theft:
– Equifax 800-525-6285
– Experian 888-EXPERIAN (or 888-397-3742)
– TransUnion 800-680-7289

Protecting your identity requires some work every month but is much easier than fixing it after it’s been stolen. Peace of mind is probably the best benefit of having a good identity theft prevention plan in place.

Identity Theft Statistics – Security Breaches

August 21, 2007

There are a lot of identity theft statistics you need to be aware of. First and foremost is this crime is increasing every year with no signs of a slowdown.

Identity thieves still target individuals but the biggest increase of id theft is in security breaches.  A security breach happens when a thief gets his hands on a laptop or data files with large numbers of personal information. You tend to hear about that on the news a lot lately.

Here are a few statistics to consider:

  • January 2007 – 28 Reported Security Breaches affecting 2,200,000 people
  • January 2006 – 21 Reported Security Breaches affecting 1,000,000 people
  • January 2005 –   3 Reported Security Breaches affecting 50,000 people
  • January 2004 –   4 Reported Security Breaches affecting 31,000 people

The three year trend:

  • Total U.S. Breaches Reported in 2006: 321
  • Total U.S. Breaches Reported in 2005: 131
  • Total U.S. Breaches Reported in 2004:   20

Unfortunately, there’s no way you can prevent your personal information from falling into the wrong hands in cases like this. Here’s a few instances that have happened recently.

  • A lock box with computer backup tapes with medical claim data of about 130,000 Aetna health insurance policyholders was stolen during a break-in.
  • The state of New York had a portion of their website which included residents social security numbers accessible to the public before realizing it. Donald Trump’s number was among them.
  • The names, social security numbers and dates of birth of 26.5 million Veterans were stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans employee.
  • Jax Federal Credit Union in Jacksonville, FL with 7,766 members has its private, non-public information, including social security numbers, exposed on Google’s search engine.

Companies and employees don’t intend for breeches to happen. Many times they go to great lengths to protect the personal information they have collected. Identity thieves continue to be on the cutting edge of technology and are able to hack their way through well-designed firewalls and security defenses.  These guys know what they’re doing and will go to any lengths to succeed in stealing large numbers of identities at once.

Identity Theft Protection is the best way to keep your identity safe. Once it’s stolen, it’s too late.

Don’t become the next victim – protect your identity today.

The History of Identity Theft

August 17, 2007

The History of Identity Theft is all about a booming technology leading to a booming crime.  The year 2000 led us into the Electronic Age. All kinds of sensitive and personal information is now transmitted through the internet.

In the 60’s, 70’s and even the early 80’s, credit card transactions required a clerk to either look through a book to see if your number was listed at ‘bad’ or else they made a phone call to authorize your credit card. This was rather time consuming. People didn’t make too many purchases with a credit card because of the time/convenience factor. With the invention of swiping your card and instant authorization by computer technology, credit card popularity exploded.

The early history of ID theft is closely allied with the history of the credit card. Identity thieve’s first targets were consumers. Credit cards, by their sheer number and indispensable role in consumerism, could be said to have spawned a history of identity theft in America.

In the mid 1990s, 65% of American adults owned, at least, one credit card. That number has since exploded by at least an additional 3 million new credit cardholders each year. After a decade, the history of identity theft was marked by a rapid growth in criminal activities that seemed to be spurred by each new growth in the credit card industry.

By 2005, 67% of all reported identity theft victims complained to the Federal Trade Commission that thieves misused their credit card accounts. That translates into a staggering 6.5 million identity-theft victims in a single year alone.

It is a phenomenon that has displayed itself not only in the history of identity theft and credit cards but in any industry that grows at such a fast rate: it becomes more susceptible to fraud designed by those taking advantage of rapidly emerging opportunities for crime.

Since industry growth happens at lightning speed, businesses cannot adapt fast enough so criminal elements can take advantage of outdated security and laws. This is most apparent in the history of identity theft over the Internet.

New Antivirus software cannot keep up with the rate at which new malware (whose sole reason for existence is to harvest personal information from your PC!) is written. And even the government has found it hard to keep up.

Security breaches, stolen laptops, pre-approved credit offers and dumpster diving have all played a part in the history of identity theft. Too many people have a relaxed attitude or just plain don’t understand the consequences of a stolen identity. Identity theft is here to stay – protect yourself now.

What To Do if Your Identity Has Been Compromised

August 12, 2007

Thieves can get your personal information in many ways. Security breaches, phishing, stolen wallet, dumpster diving, hacking into your computer…

If you think someone may have gotten your personal information, you MUST act quickly to protect yourself. That means – do it now.

Place a Fraud Alert on your credit report. It will last for 90 days. You can call one of the credit reporting agencies and they will contact the other two. However, I suggest you personally call all three of them to be sure it’s done immediately.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

Get your credit report. You can get a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com – 1-877-332-8228. You’re entitled to one free report from each credit reporting agencies every year. Just get one right now. Next month, get one from another company. If everything is still ok at this point, wait 90 days to order your third free one.

If you find accounts you haven’t personally opened on your credit report, that means your identity has been stolen and you must take more steps to protect yourself. Find out what to do if your identity has been stolen.

 

How to Tell if You’re an Identity Theft Victim

August 7, 2007

Many times  people will never realize they are an identity theft victim until they apply for credit. Like to buy a car or get a mortgage. A lot of new credit approvals will lower your score because of the higher amount of money you can borrow. This can happen because you personally have been applying or because a thief has used your identity for his own personal gain. Anytime your credit score is low, you’ll pay a higher interest rate.

Sometimes it even affects your premiums for your car insurance. Many auto insurers run a credit report on your before giving you a quote. Seems if you have a lower credit score, they consider you a higher risk driver. They’ll charge you more than a person with a score of 700 or above.

But that scenario above is for the lucky ones.

Here’s the unlucky scene….

The first time you get an inkling that your identity has been stolen is a call from a collections agency. The bills are way overdue now and you’re out of any grace period. At this point, your credit has been dinged pretty hard and your score is down there with the bottom feeders.

You may also get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a job you never had or a house you never bought. This is serious stuff – don’t ignore it. Immediately call the number on the letter to see what it’s about. And right after that, get a credit report from Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Yes, from all three.

You can keep a check on your credit to avoid any big surprises by getting a credit report every month. The credit reporting agencies will sell you a service that reports to you any changes or new accounts under your social security number. They will monitor them for you. Be aware that not all three agencies have the same information at the same time. If you have Equifax monitoring but they don’t pick up on a change, you won’t know. I have personally found discrepancies in my credit report numerous times. Don’t assume monitoring one agency is full protection.

Preventing identity theft is so much easier than fixing it.

Do Children Need Identity Theft Protection?

August 7, 2007

Kids and students are especially vulnerable to identity thieves because their personal and financial activities often aren’t closely monitored. They need identity theft protection as much as adults if not more. Each member of your family is unique and should have their identity kept safe. Safeguards your kids’ identities to be sure of a positive, fresh start when they leave home and start out on their own.

Many schools use social security numbers as student id numbers. Universities and colleges do too. Some are changing this format, but all the records from years past are available to thieves. A child’s identity can be stolen every bit as easily as your own.

Just imagine how devasting it would be when you apply for a student loan only to find out  your child’s credit is already ruined. Could you eventually get it straighened out? Probably. Could you get it fixed in time to get the loan for the upcoming school year? Probably not.

When you request a credit report for your child, the report would ideally have no information. That’s because your child has no credit history. If it comes back with a listing of accounts, well, you’re in trouble.

Children’s identities aren’t as ideal as an adults to exploit because there’s no credit history to take advantage of. But just think of how many times you’ve gone shopping and been offered "a 10% discount on today’s purchases by opening an account now". These instant approval credit cards can really cause trouble.

Protect your childrens’ identities to ensure they can start their adult lives with an untarnished name and a clean financial slate.

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