Roughly one out of every twenty people in the United States is at risk this year of being a victim of identity theft! Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. It can totally ruin your credit record!
I was a victim a couple years ago. I was on vacation when my credit card company called and wanted to know if I was charging two thousand dollars worth of hotel rooms in Hong Kong! Well I was in Maryland at the time, and my answer was absolutely NO! I'm glad they called to verify the transaction. They declined the sale and sent me a new card. I hope they caught the person. I guess I'll never know.
So how do thieves get your information and assume your identity? Here are some examples: Dumpster diving for credit card or bank statements, skimming devices used to collect your information when you swipe your card in a machine, phishing emails or pop-ups that get you to reveal your financial information, changing your billing address for some of your statements so they are diverted to another address, old fashioned stealing of your wallet, bribing employees who have access to your information, filling out your pre-approved credit card applications and the list goes on!
Now here's the good part. There is a way we can help stop this madness. There will be work required on your part and possibly a small fee. First, you should go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ and request your free credit report. By law you are allowed one free report from each bureau per year. This allows you to check for any funny business that is going on right now. Once you know your credit has not been tampered with, you can go to each bureau's website and request a credit freeze. What this does is prevents companies from accessing your credit and approving new loans and credit cards. The cost is sometimes free, but here in Florida it is ten dollars per bureau for the freeze. If for some reason you have to buy a new car or get a new credit card, you can temporarily "thaw" your credit to process those transactions. The freeze does not affect your current credit cards or loans. Although a freeze may not prevent all types of ID theft, it is the best prevention available at this time. The FTC has more details on credit freezes and how to prevent ID theft.
The credit bureaus are: http://www.equifax.com/; http://www.transunion.com/; and http://www.experian.com/
Hidden Credit Repair Secrets: 3rd Edition has great ratings if you've been a victim of credit fraud.
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