Identity Theft: Devious and Present Danger
How to Prevent It; How to Deal With It
Identity theft is the crime that keeps on taking – often for years. When someone steals your car, you can be pretty much back to normal in a few weeks. But if someone takes your identity, it may take months or even years to correct your credit records. During the frustrating cleanup period, you could be turned down for a significant loan – like a home mortgage – or new credit.
A Growth Industry
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, social security number or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. The growth in ID theft has been dramatic. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 10 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
One reason for its rapid rise is that ID theft is a fairly easy crime to commit. A thief in possession of your name and Social Security number can open a bank account and within a week receive printed checks and a debit card. Or, armed with a credit card solicitation you’ve received, the thief can call the issuer, accept the offer, and have the credit card sent to a “new” address.
People whose identities have been stolen can spend much too much time and money in cleaning up the mess that thieves have made of their good name and credit record.
While you cannot safeguard your identity 100 percent, here are some basic steps recommended by the FTC:
In addition, check your credit rating periodically. If your credit report shows a transaction or account you don’t recognize, someone may be using your identity.
Consumers may receive free credit reports from each of the three Nationwide Credit Reporting Bureaus shown below, once each year. By doing a different one each quarter, you will be able to continue reviewing your credit report throughout the year, for no cost.
Steps Victims Should Take
If you think your identity has been stolen, the FTC lists four actions you should take immediately:
For more information on how to deter, detect and avoid identity theft, go to the FTC website at www.ftc.gov.
Nationwide Credit Reporting Bureaus:
Experian Information Services