What is identity theft?
Basically, identity theft involves someone taking your personal information without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) identity theft costs Americans billions of dollars every year. It is estimated that as many as 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year. Victims can spend hundreds of dollars and countless hours trying to repair their credit and good name. The latest trend involves thieves taking advantage of the current economic situation by targeting job seekers, by establishing fake online job sites.
The FTC recommends a deter, detect, and defend approach to protect yourself from identity theft. You can deter identity theft through safeguarding your information. Detect identity theft by monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements regularly.
Defend yourself by following the following steps should you suspect a problem in order to minimize the damage:
1. Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports and review the reports carefully. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free numbers and can place a 90-day Fraud Alert on your credit report:
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
A call to any one of the three companies is sufficient and entitles you to free copies of your credit report once the fraud alert is placed.
2. Close all accounts that have been opened fraudulently or any existing accounts that have been tampered with. Notify your bank to flag your accounts and to contact you should there be any unusual activity. Keep a record of your conversations regarding your accounts, including the date, time, and the name of the person you spoke with. Also, keep copies of documents regarding the theft.
3. Contact your local police. Obtain a copy of the police report.
4. Contact your nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Service office.
5. Contact the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hot line at 1-800-269-0271.
6. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to find out if another license was issued in your name. If so, request a new license number and fill out a complaint form for the DMV to begin the fraud investigation process.
7. Report the identity theft to the FTC which helps law enforcement across the country in the investigations. Call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) to report the theft.
If, after following all the above steps, you feel you need an investigator for follow-up investigation, or consultation, we are there to help.
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