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Dealing with Identity Theft

Posted by Bill Prewitt, MS, CFP on 30 April 2009 | 0 Comments

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Identify theft is now the fastest growing crime in America.  There were about 10 million cases in 2004.  Since February 2005, major data handlers, including LexisNexis, ChoicePoint and CardSystems, have reported breaches that left the data of more than 50 million people at risk. Congress is beginning to stir, cracking down on the crime.  In the meantime, you need to take some preventative measures.

How can someone steal your identity?  Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.  Criminals apply for credit cards in your name without your knowledge and start making charges.  You will never know because the address they provided is not your own.  People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years - and their hard-earned money - cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record.  In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.

There are steps to take if you think Identity Theft has occurred.  If you think this has happened,

(1) contact the reporting services to place a fraud alert on your account,

(2) close the affected accounts,

(3) file a police report so you have proof of the crime, and

(4) file a complaint with the FTC. 

Preventative steps will help you avoid having the problem.  The Federal Trade Commission has compiled the 3-D’s:

(1) Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information;

(2) Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements, and

(3) Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect a problem. 

There is a wealth of information available at the website of the Federal Trade Commission (http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft).  There you will find links for the reporting services, affidavits, and FTC complaint forms.  There you will find the preventative steps you can begin taking to combat this problem.

 


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