ID theft is a big business that poses a significant threat to consumers and to the economy. According to the FTC, consumers contact them with more questions about credit and credit fraud than any other topic.
Credit fraud appears in many forms. Some forms include abusive lending practices, stolen credit cards, hijacked credit identities, advance-fee loan scams, and so-called guaranteed credit repair cons.
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 allows victims of identity fraud the right to file police reports and to recoup damages. It also appoints the FTC to serve as an advocate for victims by assisting them with finding the right law enforcement agency to prosecute their case.
Ways to prevent ID theft:
– Shred or burn any papers with financial information and identifiers, such as account numbers or your Social Security number. Tearing documents in half and throwing them in the trash is not enough protection.
– Don’t put your Social Security number on any document unless it is legally required.
– Check your credit report regularly (ideally, twice each year) to make sure you recognize all the entries.
– Remove your name from promotional lists operated by credit reporting agencies and credit grantors.
If you find you have been victimized by identity theft, immediately call the credit bureaus and put a fraud watch on your account. File a police report. You’ll need it when disputing charges with various creditors.
To minimize your vulnerability to identity theft, CCCS suggests consumers order a copy of their credit reports at least twice each year. Go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ or call 1-877-FACT-ACT (322-8228) to get your free credit reports.