Identity theft statistics
A person can spend a lifetime building a reputation for financial reliability,
only to be victimized by identity theft, a crime that can quickly undermine
one's good credit. In dealing with the fallout of identity theft, victims
often go through a stressful, frustrating and time-consuming ordeal. Once
a criminal obtains your Social Security number with a few additional pieces
of personal data, such as date of birth, driver's license and mother's
maiden name, he or she can apply for credit, loans or utility services in
your name. According to the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft
Clearinghouse, the most typical types of identity theft are as follows:
How to protect yourself
- Credit card fraud - More than half of all victims said that either
a credit card account was opened in their name or an existing account
was being used without authorization.
- Bank fraud - The thief either opens an unauthorized checking or savings
account in another person's name or writes checks on someone else's
account, sometimes after stealing checks.
- Communications services - A quarter of all victims said that a thief
used their name to open service with a utility such as the phone company.
- Fraudulent loans - The thief uses the victim's identity to obtain
a loan for a car or other item.
Review the following tips from CreditExpert to learn how you can help protect
your personal information and avoid being victimized by an identity thief.
Step # 1 - Shred pre-approved credit card offers
If you decide not to accept a pre-approved credit offer, shred it before
you throw it away. That goes for any other document imprinted with your
Social Security number, date of birth, driver's license, phone number
and any type of financial account or utility account number. Your trash
can be a gold mine for thieves, so make sure this critical information is
shredded before it leaves your house. If you do not want to receive pre-approved
credit offers, call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) to be removed from
the lists of major credit bureau lists.
Step # 2 - Don't display critical information
Do not print your
Social Security number, phone number, date of birth or credit card account
number on your checks, and don't give this information to a merchant
who wants to write it on your check at the time of purchase.
Step # 3 - Secure your mail
Stealing mail is another way that identity thieves obtain your personal
information. Consider buying a lockable mailbox if your current mailbox
is unsecured. If your mail suddenly stops coming, call the post office immediately.
Identity thieves have been know to divert a victim's mail by filing
a change of address form.
Step # 4 - Monitor your credit
Monitor your credit report on a regular basis. If you find a change of address
you did not initiate or accounts you did not apply for, check out Experian's
Fraud Center or call 1-888-397-3742 and request a copy of your personal
credit report. The credit report will include contact information for requesting
an investigation of incorrect information. It's also important to watch
your monthly billing statements for errors.
What to do if you're a victim
Once you become aware that your personal information is being used fraudulently,
your best defense is taking fast action to minimize future damage. You should
first contact your creditors to close any fraudulent accounts. Next, notify
the national crediting reporting agencies by calling Experian®
at 1-800-270-3435 and TransUnion®
Experian's fraud alert will remain for 90 days. Credit Reporting Agencies
(CRA) will send you a complimentary copy of your personal credit report
as legislated for victims of fraud, and as a further precaution, remove
your name from prescreened offer mailing lists. They will provide you with
tips for recovering from fraud. They will also offer you the opportunity
to request that a fraud alert message be added to your personal credit report
for an extended period of time. This message says, "Fraudulent applications
may be submitted in my name using correct personal information. Do not extend
credit without first contacting me personally and verifying all applicant
information at (your day phone number) or (your evening phone number). Date
reported-(mm/yy)." This message will remain on your Experian report for