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How to protect your Identity from Identity Theft

This guide will help you take action to protect yourself against identity theft. If you have already been victimized, this guide will provide information about restoring your credit profile and minimize the potential for any future occurrences of identity theft.

WHAT IS IDENTITY THEFT?

Identity theft occurs when the identity of a person is stolen for the purpose of opening credit accounts, stealing money from existing accounts, applying for loans, even renting apartments or committing crimes. Victims of identity theft often are not aware that they have been targeted until they find unknown charges on their bank or credit card statements are called by a collections agency or are denied credit.

HOW IDENTITY THEFT HAPPENS

Here are some of the most common ways identity thieves can gain access to your information. They:

  • Steal wallets and purses containing your identification, credit, and bankcards
  • Steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, phone bills and tax information
  • Complete a “change of address form” to divert your mail to another location
  • Steal or illegally purchase personal information you share on the Internet
  • Call you claiming to be a well know reputable company, asking for personal information.
  • Send you an email, which appears to be from a reputable company, asking to respond or go to a web site and provide your personal information. This practice is known as “phishing” (pronounced “fishing”)
  • Set up bogus web sites that look like familiar legitimate sites and ask you to provide personal information. This practice is known as “spoofing”.

Contact one of the three credit bureaus to request that an initial 90-day fraud alert be added to your personal file. By requesting a 90-day fraud alert, anyone seeking credit in your name will have to have his or her identity verified. The credit bureau you contact will forward the fraud alert to the remaining two credit bureaus automatically. Once you place the fraud alert in your file you are entitled to a free credit report.

Check your credit report regularly. Additionally, consumers are entitled under federal law to get one free comprehensive disclosure of all of the information in their credit file from each of the above three national credit bureaus once every 12 months. You may request your free annual credit report by visiting http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com or calling (877) FACTACT.

The information for each of the three credit bureaus is as follows:

Equifax

(800) 525-6285

Post Office Box 740241

Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

http://www.equifax.com

Experian

(888) 397-3742

Post Office Box 9532

Allen, TX 75013

http://www.experian.com

TransUnion

(800) 680-7289

Fraud Victim Assistance Division

Post Office Box 6790

Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

http://www.transunion.com

Notify your bank(s) and ask them to flag your account, contact you regarding any unusual activity, and take the following actions in the event of such activity:

a. If checks were stolen, place stop payments on them.

b. If bank accounts were set up without your consent, close them.

c. If your ATM card was stolen, issue a new card, account number, and PIN.

Notify the issuers of the credit cards you carry. If unauthorized charges appear on your legitimate credit cards or if unauthorized cards were issued in your name:

a. Request replacement cards with new account numbers.

b. Monitor credit card bills for new fraudulent activity. If found, report it immediately to the credit card issuers and credit reporting agencies.

Check with any online accounts, merchants, or payment services that you use for any fraudulent activity against your account.
Contact your local police department to file a criminal report.

Contact the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline (800) 269-0271 to report the unauthorized use of your personal identification information.

Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of your identity theft. Check to see whether an authorized license number has been issued in your name.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Visit the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.consumer.gov or call 1-877-438-4338 to review the information available in the “Take Charge: Fighting Back against Identity Theft” brochure or to file a complaint.

Contact the local office of the United States Postal Service or go to its website https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/ and file an “Identity Theft via US Mail” complaint form with the Postal Inspector.

Document the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak to regarding the incident. Follow up your phone calls with letters. Keep copies of all correspondence.

Important numbers if you are a victim of Identity Theft

TeleCheck (800) 710-9898
Federal trade Commission ID Theft Hotline (877) 438-4338
Social Security Fraud Hotline (800) 269-0271
United States Postal Service online www.usps.com/websites/depart/inspect/

  • Equifax (800) 525-6285
  • Experian (888) 397-3742
  • TransUnion (800) 680-7289
  • TeleCheck (800) 710-9898
  • Federal trade Commission ID Theft Hotline (877) 438-4338
  • Social Security Fraud Hotline (800) 269-0271
  • United States Postal Service online https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/

This article originally appeared on AskStudent http://www.askstudent.com/security/how-to-protect-your-identity-from-identity-theft/

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