Identity Theft is one of today's fastest growing crimes. It occurs when someone steals your personal information and identification. They may open credit card accounts, apply for loans, rent apartments and purchase phone services, all in your name. In many cases, they request address changes so you never see the bills for their activity. These impersonators spend your money as quickly as possible. Most victims never know it until they apply for credit, or receive a call from a collection agency. Clearing your name and erasing the effects of identity theft can be a nightmare and take a great deal of time. You can spend months or even years re-establishing your credit worthiness.
- Store personal information in a safe place.
- Shred financial statements, bank checks, credit card offers, charge receipts and credit applications before discarding them.
- Don't release personal information.
- Never disclose account numbers, Social Security numbers and credit card numbers over the phone or email unless you know the person or organization you are dealing with.
- Guard against mail theft. Promptly remove incoming mail after it has been delivered, or contact the Post Office to hold your mail when you're planning to be away from home for an extended time.
- Deposit outgoing mail into a secure, official U. S. Postal Service collection box.
- Be suspicious of any offer made by telephone, website, email or even traditional mail that seems too good to be true.
Check Your Credit Reports
Under a federal law enacted by Congress, every consumer in the United States can now obtain one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus.
- Obtain your free credit reports by mail, by phone or online from a service that is run jointly by the three credit bureaus.
- If you order your credit report online, you must print it or save it to your computer, or it will be unavailable once you leave the screen.
- The free program applies only to the credit report itself. Credit scores are not included in the free credit report, but they can be purchased from the credit bureaus for a fee.
- Experts strongly recommend that consumers obtain their free credit reports, and review them for completeness and accuracy in order to learn about their credit, check for errors in their credit information and detect identity theft.
- If something is wrong on a credit report, you can dispute it directly with the credit bureau. When a dispute is filed, the credit bureau has 45 days to respond to the consumer.
You can obtain your free credit report in the following ways:
Credit Report Request Service
P. O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281