Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

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Victims of identity theft can miss out on numerous opportunities in their lives due to having their identity stolen. Many victims can not find jobs or apply for credit cards and loans since their credit report is mostly negative after an identity theft. Identity theft is basically a term used to describe the illegal use of another person’s identity. This can vary from one extreme to another but ultimately identity theft is the practice of using an identity other than your own, without permission, to commit fraud or crimes. Identity theft can take many forms, including: Financial ID Theft, Identity Cloning, and Business/Commercial ID Theft.

Identity theft is the process of someone using an identity that is not their own for any type of service, transaction, or notification. Sounds fancy huh? Let’s break it down. If someone pretends to be you in order to buy, sell, claim, announce, advertise, promote, or steal then they are committing identity theft. Identity theft is more than just someone who stole your password to your Yahoo e-mail; it is a frustrating experience that often leaves the victims feeling hopeless and clueless on how to regain their identity, not to mention how to protect their assets. They can use your identity to open up a phone account in your name, defame another individual, or the dreaded credit card account in your name.

1) Dumpster diving – Identity thieves will often get your personal information by going through trash and other disposed items. It is probably one of the most common and easiest ways for identity thieves to steal your information. However, this threat can be eliminated with a little bit of due diligence. Buy yourself a paper shredder, and shred any documents you get in the mail that have any personal information on it. This includes your name and address. If you are internet savvy, you can stop financial statements from being delivered via the mail, like bank statements and utility bills. Check your mail regularly each day and send financial mail via the post office directly or drop off boxes, not from your mailbox. In other words, don’t put checks in the mail using your mailbox, scammers have been known to drive around and collect these personal identification items. Also, if you all of a sudden begin receiving no mail for several days in a row, you may have had an identity thief fill out a change of address form against your address.

2) Monitor your identity – Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to identity theft. In order to prevent identity theft or minimize its potential impact, you must be prepared to monitor your identity. That means, you must check every financial account you own at least once a month. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, and utility bills. Look for any activity that you didn’t authorize, no matter what the charge was. Identity theft can often start off as a $2.00 charge to your account, as scammers see if they can successfully use your identity. If you get notifications in the mail or your e-mail about accounts you didn’t setup, don’t just trash them, investigate and make sure that they are not yours. If you are denied credit or are getting calls from creditors, then you may have already been a victim of identity theft. Above all, contact each of the three credit agencies and get a yearly copy of your credit report. You can visit, or call toll-free 877-322-8228 to receive your report.

3) Inventory your wallet or purse – Statistics say that 94.7 percent of Americans carry either a wallet or purse with them at all times. However, can you list out the exact contents of your wallet or purse? Because these items are of high value to identity thieves, you must be prepared to take action in the unfortunate circumstance that your wallet or purse is stolen. Go ahead and make that list today and keep it at home or at work. If your wallet or purse is stolen, make sure you call every agency responsible for the items on your list within the first 24 hours and begin steps to void out those stolen materials. This proactive approach will save you both the heartache of trying to remember what you have in your wallet and the headache of having your identity stolen. One more note, NEVER store your social security number on you. Memorize it and store it away in a safe location.

You should file a complete “Identity Theft Report” when you discover that you have been the victim of identity theft. A full “Identity Theft Report” consists of two documents. Both need to be filed as soon as possible. Keep copies of each. One form is the ID Theft Complaint form that can be obtained from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). The FTC can be reached at 1-877-438-4338. The other document is the identity crime report you must file with law enforcement officials.

Print out a copy of the “ID Theft Complaint from the FTC” from the government website and complete the form. Take it with you when you go to the local police station to file a police report. The two documents, (a signed police report and the ID Theft Complaint form from the FTC), together, constitute a complete “ID Theft Report”. Note that your legal rights are hampered if you are without a full ID Theft Report.