According to a recent report by the Federal Trade Commission, incidents of identity theft rose again for the second straight year. The report stated over one million complaints were filed in 2012. Not only did the number of incidents increase, but amounts of money being stolen are also becoming larger.
What can you do to protect yourself from identity theft? The smartest thing to do is to monitor your credit. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Transunion and Equifax, once every 12 months. It is important to get your report. Review it for any inaccuracies or open accounts you have not authorized.
Unfortunately victims of identity theft are not aware they have been victimized until they apply for a mortgage or car loan, etc. There are some signs that you’ve been victimized. You may see withdrawals from bank accountd you have not made or authorized. If you no longer receive monthly bills at your authorized address, someone may have changed the address on your accounts. There are many ways thieves can obtain personal information. Some get information by rummaging through garbage, trash of businesses or may work for a company that has access to your information.
Probably the best idea to prevent theft of your identity is to engage the services of a company that provides ID theft protection services. There are several companies providing this service. These companies monitor credit reports and advise you each time there’s an application for credit or other items added to your credit report. Although there is a monthly fee for these services, it is much cheaper in the long run to have ID theft protection.
What to do ID theft? The first thing to do if you find you have been a victim of ID theft is to file an inital fraud alert with one of the credit reporting agencies who then must report the fraud alert to the other two companies. Ask the company to put a fraud alert on your credit report. Once you’ve placed that fraud alert, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three agencies. Review those reports and report any unauthorized accounts or transactions to the related businesses. Next file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission. This report will help you remove the unauthorized activity from your credit report and assist with debt collectors trying to collect authorized debts. Finally, take the identity theft report with you to file a complaint with your local police.
Of course, the best course of action is be proactive and protect yourself from identity theft with the use of a credit monitoring service.