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Detecting Identity Theft

Identity Theft is not hard to detect if you look in the right places.  Your credit reports and public records are the first places signs of Identity Theft will show up.  You don’t want to wait until you are turned down for a loan or are refused a job before you realize that you have become a victim.


 How can I tell if I’m a victim?


If an identity thief is opening new credit accounts in your name, these accounts are likely to show up on your credit report.  You can find out by ordering a copy of your credit reports.  Check your report carefully to make sure it is accurate.  If your personal information has been lost or stolen, you should check your reports more frequently for the first year.  In addition, read your financial account statements promptly and look for any unauthorized debits or charges. 

Stay alert for other signs of ID Theft: 

  • Failing to receive bills or other mail.  Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time.  A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.   
  • Receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for.  
  • Being denied credit or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason. 
  • Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t purchase.

Although any of these indications could be a result of a simple error, you should not assume that there's been a mistake and do nothing.  Always follow up with the business or institution to find out.

You know what you do with your financial entity, but in the case of Identity Theft, the thief will hide his/her activity from you for as long as possible: most cases of ID theft go unknown to the victim for 6 to 18 months.  By monitoring your credit reports and public records, ID Watch gives you the chance to stop any financial damage before it becomes unmanageable.

You will be instantly alerted of any new information in your credit reports and public records.  If a new address shows up in your public records, it may be the case that a thief has rerouted your credit card bills or opened a new bank account in your name.  This information will pop up in your public records.  Other information found in public records includes driver’s license profiles, Social Security number activity, civil court records (bankruptcy, judgments, tax liens, lawsuits, etc.), employment records, etc.  Your credit report contains information about bank accounts, loans, credit card accounts, automobile purchases, financing, etc.  This not only prevents the thief from using your information for long stretches of time, thus limiting the amount of damage they can do, it also gives authorities a chance to catch the thief. 

ID Watch, and 24/7 peace of mind, costs as little as $4.95 a month.  Just as you buckle your seatbelt and buy health insurance, you should also protect your identity, because it is the only one you have.

 

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 What should I do if my personal info/ID has been stolen?


If your information or identification documents were stolen or scammed, you have an opportunity to prevent the misuse of that information if you can take action quickly. 

  • Purchase ID Watch, so you can monitor your financial and public records for any suspicious activity.  You will be instantly alerted of any new information in your credit reports and public records.  If a new address shows up in your public records, it may be the case that a thief has rerouted your credit card bills or opened a new bank account in your name.  This information will pop up in your public records.  Other information found in public records includes driver’s license profiles, Social Security number activity, civil court records (bankruptcy, judgments, tax liens, lawsuits, etc.), employment records, etc.  Your credit report contains information about bank accounts, loans, credit card accounts, automobile purchases, financing, etc.  This not only prevents the thief from using your information for long stretches of time, thus limiting the amount of damage they can do, it also gives authorities a chance to catch the thief. 
  • Contact law enforcement agencies, at least to report fraud or theft, if not Identity theft.
  • Contact one of the credit bureaus to place fraud alerts on your records.
  • For financial account information such as credit card or bank account information: Close those accounts immediately.  When you open new ones, place passwords on these accounts.  Avoid using your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
  • To replace an SSN card: Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to get a replacement.
  • For driver's license or other identification documents: Contact the issuing agency. Follow their procedures to place fraud flags and to get replacements.

Once you have taken these precautions, there really isn't anything more you need to do except to check for the signs that your information is being misused.  You don't have to file an ID Theft report with the police or with the FTC until you find out if your information is actually being misused.  If another crime was committed, such as theft of your purse or wallet or your house or car was broken into, report that crime to the police.

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