If you haven't been reading the newspapers or watching the evening news, you may not be aware that the crime of identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes of this century. Identity theft is not only for online activities, but is every bit as rampant on normal offline activities, even for people that don't even own a computer. |
The problem is that people are not careful with their personal information. A grocery store clerk asks you for your social security number or to write your social security number on a check. No way. Either decline or do your grocery shopping elsewhere, because there is no good reason for you to divulge that very personal piece of identifying information to anyone who does not need it, and I can guarantee that your grocery store does not need it.
What do you do with those offers for pre-approved credit cards that you get in the mail almost every week? Do you just throw them in the trash can? Identity thieves are experts at an activity known as "dumpster diving", where having them find such a discarded credit card offer is like giving them the keys to the kingdom. They can potentially open a new account in your name, get the new card, charge it to the hilt, then disappear without a trace. By the time you discover that something has happened, they are long gone and the trail to try to find them has long since grown ice cold. The first time you hear about it is probably about 45 to 60 days later when you get a call from a creditor you've never heard of before wondering when you plan to start making payments on your account.
You should regularly (2 to 3 times per year) get a copy of your credit report from the major credit reporting bureaus and go over them with a fine tooth comb. It's bad enough that the majority of credit reports contain errors, but if you see an account on there that does not belong to you, you need to throw up the red flag right away to ensure that additional damage does not occur.
Here are some additional things you should watch for which may be a sign that you have become a victim of identity theft:
- If you receive a credit card statement in the mail from a creditor where you do not have an account, contact them immediately. Someone may have opened that account in your name without you knowing about it.
- If you feel you have good to excellent credit but you are turned down for a loan or a new credit card, find out why. It could be that your credit is not as good as you thought it was, or it could also be that someone has opened one or more accounts in your name and they are all past due.
- As mentioned above, you get a phone call from the collections department of a creditor where you didn't know you had an account.
- Withdrawals on your credit card account as a "cash advance" withdrawal or having charges that you cannot identify on your debit card or credit card statement. It is your right to know what each and every one of those transactions represents, and if you can't identify it, it is your task to find out what it was.
- If you don't receive your credit card statements around the same time of the month, or perhaps don't receive one at all in a given month. Be aware of when you should be receiving those, and if you don't receive one, contact the creditor to find out why. It could be that an identity thief has stolen your identity and changed your address.
Unfortunately, most people are too lax with keeping their personal information protected, which opens the door for identity theft. Keep your personal information intact to prevent identity theft! For more insights and additional information about Identity Theft Protection please visit our web site at http://www.identity-theft-info.com
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