Identity theft is defined as a form of fraud, using the identity of another person as your own so that they can obtain some sort of benefit. The media is eager to report privacy issues, especially those that involve ecommerce. Most of the time, the focus is on credit card information and protecting this information. This often leads to a blur between the lines of credit card theft and identity theft. Although credit card theft is considered a form of stealing one’s identity, there are other ways that your identity can be stolen; whichever way your identity is stolen, it can significantly harm your credit if it is not handled in the appropriate manner.
The method that identity thieves use to steal your identity is usually from the combination of various pieces of information to obtain more information about you. For instance, if an identity thief has your full name and knows your current address, they can use this information to obtain a fake driver’s license which can then be used to gain access to your bank account and other private information. Furthermore, if an identity thief has your actual social security number, they can access personal records including your confidential credit history. Identity thieves can obtain your information from simple methods such as going through your trash, guessing common passwords, hacking into your computer as well as other methods.
Once thieves obtain your information, they can benefit from it and use it for a number of reasons. Some examples include using your good credit rating for apartment rental, obtaining a credit card, filing medical claims, establishing a telephone number and filing for tax refunds. This is why it is extremely important that you protect your credit from identity theft by using passwords that are more difficult that your birthday or the street you live on, shred any important and personal papers before taking out your trash and make sure that you have a high level of security on your computer to reduce the chances of a hacker accessing any personal information you have stored.
More often than not, you will not find out your identity has been stolen until you are denied for insurance, receive a credit card statement or get arrested for a crime that you had nothing to do with. Identity thieves benefit from stealing your identity in more ways than monetary ones; they also use your identity to commit crimes so they are not the ones who get caught. Identity theft can lean to loan fraud, bank fraud, credit card fraud, insurance fraud and employment fraud. If your credit has been stolen, you can end up being denied credit, denied a promotion or a job or paying interest rates at the default level due to non payment.
It is vital that you monitor your credit report on a regular basis so that you can minimize and correct any attempts at identity fraud as soon as it is discovered. You can obtain a free credit report from each credit reporting bureau one time per year. The credit report gives you a summary of all activity that has to do with your credit, including past and current accounts, the activity on those accounts and any inquiries that have been made relating to gaining credit or a change of your address.
If it is found that you are an identity theft victim, the first thing you need to do is to alert the credit bureaus and have them place your file on fraud alert. By placing your account on fraud alert, this prevents any additional accounts from being opened in your name. You can contact only one of the credit bureaus to place your file on fraud alert and this will notify the other two bureaus; the one bureau is required to contact the other two bureaus, but if you do not receive a confirmation from a company, contact them directly. Once your file is placed on fraud alert, review your credit report for any inaccuracies and dispute them.
Close all accounts that you believe have been tampered with or opened in a fraudulent manner. Speak with someone in the fraud department at each company and follow up with them in writing on the reasons you are closing your account. When you send them documentation, make sure that you are sending copies and not the originals so that you can keep the originals in your own file. In addition to alerting the credit reporting bureaus and the actual companies of your fraud incident, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and file a police report with the station located in the community where the identity theft occurred.