Wednesday, March 16, 2005

HALT Identity Theft!

Most people find out they have been the victims of Identity Theft too late to prevent it. Watch your bank and credit card accounts every month for suspicious charges. Unexplained withdrawals should be reported to your bank immediately and investigated!


Early Signs:
Have you noticed any small suspicious charges on credit cards or bank accounts? This is an early warning sign of impending doom. If you have lost mail, bank statements, pay stubs, a wallet, credit card or check book--a thief or con may sell or hold them to use later.

If you suspect you have been exposed to Credit Fraud or Identity Theft, you should notify all three Credit Reporting Bureaus (details below) to put an alert on your file--even if you only suspect a person who had access to your personal details. Unfortunately, with the increase in online purchases, there is a substantial increase in intercepted information by hackers who put spyware onto your computer designed to seek out credit card and bank account numbers. Registering a Fraud Alert with the credit bureaus is done by phone (numbers below). The service is free.

Once your report is flagged, the Credit Bureaus will contact you before allowing a card or credit account to be issued in your name. I understand this can stay in place indefinitely--but it's a good idea to check in or repeat it every 90 days if you have ongoing issues. Unfortunately, once someone has your details they may 'hit' your accounts for small amounts to see if you notice for a few months before making major charges. It's always a good idea to report any suspicious charges to you bank and immediately close accounts that have been affected.

Federal Trade Commission Site:
Check out the FTC's excellent online articles about Identity Theft. You can also report a perpetrator of fraud on their system. Such a person will find it hard to work in the finance industry if they have been reported....and unfortunately some of them do hide out in legitimate organizations to gain access to victims:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm


To put a Fraud Alert on your Credit Report call all 3 Bureaus:

Equifax Information Services: 800 685 1111
Trans Union Customer Relations: 800 888 4213
Experian: 888 397 3742

If you have experienced Identity Theft, read my blog titled Reporting Fraud and follow each step. It is up to individual consumers to report and correct their credit. The process is time consuming with long term benefits and it's free if you do it yourself. Beware of Credit Repair and Credit Counselling firms that offer to do this for you for a big fat fee. Their actions can have the reverse effect. If you choose that route, do check out the firm with the Better Business Bureau. Unless you problem is related to your own bad habits, it's far better to handle this yourself.

Wishing you every credit sanity! Loannetter
©2005 susan templeton