Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Don't Delay, Take Immediate Action To Recover Your Identity

If you have had your identity stolen is it of utmost importance that you act quickly. You don't want the identity thief spending all your hard earned money and put you further in to debt! Act as soon as you suspect something is wrong.

It is important that you call your bank straight away if you suspect a theft has occurred. If you do not report the fraud quickly you may become liable for funds spent in your name.

You only have sixty days from when you receive your bank statement or credit card statement to contest any discrepancies you find. If you leave it longer than the sixty day time period, you are probably going to be held liable for the charges. But sixty days is too long to wait, so do it straight away!

Imagine this scenario. You get home from a days shopping and suddenly realize your credit card is missing. You call the retailer where you used the card last and see if they have it there – they do! Fantastic you don't have to worry about canceling your card and you tell them you will pick the card up tomorrow. But you should be worried. It is quite possible that the retailer or one of their staff may be an identity thief and in the 24 hours you take to collect your card, they will not only have gathered all the information they need to run up huge bills in your name, but also to find out other personal information, enabling them to create false ID cards etc. You will not find out about their spending spree until you get your next statement and by that time there may be another 'you' in full circulation. If you can't find your credit card cancel it immediately! Don't take any chances.

If you realize your credit card has been stolen, you must contact the creditor and close the account as soon as possible. The same goes for your check book if it is missing. If you act quickly, at most you will only be liable for the first $50 of the funds spent illegally in your name. The quicker you act, the more likely you are to stop the theft from escalating.

Contacting the credit bureaus to flag your account as one that has been a victim of identity theft will put a stop to anyone trying to open a new account in your name. This is just as important as putting a stop on your existing accounts. The alert will be activated within 24 hours on your credit file and your name will be taken off pre-approved insurance and credit offers for two years.

Taking action to regain your identity immediately goes a long way in supporting your claim that you are a legitimate victim, not just someone who is trying to get out of paying their bills. So do yourself a favor, take action now!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Steps To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

The crime of identity theft increases daily and therefore so do the chances that you will become a victim of it at some point if you do not take precautions to protect your personal information. Identity theft, as much as being a crime being committed regularly, is a royal pain in the backside to get straightened out, often taking as long as months and even years to get these bogus entries removed from your credit reports.

Identity theft is by no means limited to online transactions. Reports and studies indicate that it is just as rampant for offline activities. How about those offers for pre-approved credit cards or reduced rate mortgages that you get much more often than necessary delivered via US mail? What do you do with them? Of course, you have purchased an inexpensive paper shredder from your local office supply store like Best Buy of Office Depot and shred them, right? Please don't tell me that you just throw them in the trash, because that is a prime place for identity theft robbers to get the information that they need to make YOU a victim of their antics.

From an offline perspective, you are encouraged to look over your credit card bills when they arrive in the mail. This includes bank statements and your mortgage statements every month. If someone were to steal the mail out of your mailbox while you were at work, is there enough information on any of those statements to enable an identity thief to open new accounts using your identity? If so, you may wish to have your statements sent to a PO box that is much more secure than your mailbox standing out by the road all day long where someone could steal your mail, or even check with your lender to see if they could send statements electronically via a secure connection to your secure emailbox.

You should place a fraud alert on your credit report, even if you are not a victim of identity theft. There are different names for this service, but it will require you to be contacted if anyone (including yourself) applies for credit using your name. This needs to be done with each of the three major national credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If they give you any trouble with this, you are encouraged to report them to your state's division of financial regulation. You are trying to protect yourself, they are providing a service, and if they are uncooperative, you do not need to put up with it.

One point to be taken very seriously is that if you have become a victim of identity theft, do NOT make any payments on any of the bills opened by the thief. If you do, this action could be used by the creditor to claim that it really is your account since you made at least one payment on it. As ludicrous as that sounds, you need to understand that the creditor realizes that if identity theft can be proven, they will most likely not even be able to collect as much as a penny on the dollar for the balance owed. So the creditor will make every attempt possible to claim that the fraudulent account really is yours, and if you make any payments on it, that will only service to substantiate their claims.

Be vigilant! You have rights and you need to be aware of what they are. You should also be aware that identity theft protection is available if you wish to utilize that route to protect yourself against identity theft.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Identity Theft Crime Becoming Increasingly Complex

The crime of identity theft is becoming increasingly complex and increasingly more complicated as reported cases continue to rise. Recently, a woman was arrested for identity theft who had 12 cellular phone contracts fraudulently taken out using the identities of other people. In another reported case, an identity thief had gotten approved for a loan for $500,000 in the US.

Many banks and financial institutions are now creating departments that are tasked specifically with combating this type of crime. In most cases this is a division of the institution's anti-fraud department, but in other situations, the identity theft crime has become so prevalent that entire departments have been setup to develop methods to effectively fight it.

One anti-fraud company that has been created to fight fraud said that the number of multiple frauds reports by its customer had almost doubled since a year ago at this time. Once a person has been identified as a target, it appears that the information can be sold to other identity theft organizations, where the end result is that someone who is a victim of identity theft is actually a victim an average of 5-6 times, with some reported cases of more than two dozen fraudulent accounts opened.

A new type of high-tech crime is emerging. Using tiny microprocessors and very small computer chips, these are placed into the slot that accepts your debit card at ATM machines. They are small enough to where they do not prevent your debit card from being inserted into the machine. After you have entered your debit card and entered your PIN, it is reported that there is a problem with the machine and your card is returned, but what has happened in the meantime is that the thief has been given your account number and your PIN. It is extremely easy to make a debit card that has the exact same information on the magnetic stripe as the real card, and armed with that and your PIN, the thief can clean out your bank account quickly.

Like anything else, vigilance is necessary. Change your PIN often, especially if an ATM machine "malfunctions" or you suspect anything is amiss.