Last year alone in 2004, more than 9.9 million Americans were victims of identity theft scams. Those crimes cost them nearly $5 billion. That number of victims and their losses are probably much higher. Several cases go unreported because people are either embarrassed that it happened to them or have no idea where to report it when it does happen.
First, here are a few ways to prevent identity theft so you have less chance of it happening to you. A very important step in learning how to avoid identity theft is to keep a close watch on all of your personal information and your credit report.
Check your credit reports from all three credit bureaus at least once a year to see that everything is accurate. If you find an error, dispute it immediately so you can protect yourself against fraud. Similar names and similar social security numbers often get mixed up, or even worse, someone could have stolen your identity.
Another way to prevent identity theft is not to carry your Social Security card or anything with your Social Security number on it in your wallet. Keep your social security number private because someone could easily steal your identity with your number.
The same goes for your bank card pin number because it makes it easy for a thief who has stolen your wallet to help themselves to your bank account at an A.T.M.
Other ways to prevent identity theft also need to be applied to the Internet. If you use the Internet, make sure all your security software like virus protection and spyware software is up to date. Be aware of Internet scams that ask for any personal or password information.
Legitimate businesses will never send you an e-mail asking you to confirm your personal identifying information. So never give out personal information unless you initiated the contact or you’re absolutely sure who you’re dealing with.
Also be especially careful about giving your credit card number over the phone to telemarketers. While most companies are legitimate this is a popular way for thieves to obtain your name, address and credit card number.
So what happens if you do become a victim and what is involved in reporting identity theft? Here is the information for the agencies you need to contact.
1. Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge. best credit repair services