Monthly Archives: March 2016
What to do when your identity is stolen.…Millions of people have their identities stolen each year.
It can cost hundreds of dollars and countless hours to resolve an identity theft crime.
While I’ve never found myself a victim of identity theft personally, a close relative of mine had their identity stolen a few years back.
It’s a stressful position to be in and it can definitely feel unfair.
If you recently found out someone has been using your identity or applying for credit in your name, there are a few initial steps you should take immediately.
Contact the Credit Bureaus
One of the first things you’ll want to do, aside from checking your credit report to assess any damage, is to contact all of the three major credit bureaus to make them aware of your situation and request that they issue a fraud alert to your credit report.
This should help cease any fraudulent activity from continuing. Fraud alerts typically remain on your credit for 90 days, but you can extend the alert as needed.
Write Everything Down
It’s important to keep specific records regarding your situation from the moment the issue is brought to your attention until it is completely resolved.
As you make phone calls, send emails, and mail letters out, keep a detailed list either on your computer or in a notepad of who you talked to and when to stay organized in case you get the run-around in any way.
You should also keep track of how much time it takes you to get the issue solved and if any expenses arise as a result. You can deduct theft-related expenses from your tax return.
Fill out a Police Report and File Legal Paperwork
It may be a good idea to file a report at your local police station to document the theft. Come prepared with any paperwork or proof you can gather up and take a copy of the report home.
Another document that you can ask for at your local police station or pull up online is the Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit.
You can offer this form to creditors to help support the fact that you are not responsible for transactions and activity on accounts that were not opened or used by you, and allow them the ability to investigate the account further.
Has your identity been stolen? You can prepare yourself by taking these steps to resolve it
Change Your Pin and Close Accounts
It’s important to change all your pin numbers for debit and credit cards along with your bank login information.
You should also make sure your accounts are closed for good and order new cards just to be safe.
Call and Write any Lenders or Debt Collectors
One of the final steps will include contacting lenders and debt collectors to get negative records removed from your credit report and resolve the issue.
Make sure you make copies of the letters you send along with any emails. The debt collector should be understanding when you tell them that you are a victim of identity theft.
If they end up asking you to pay for the debt anyway, involve the actual lender and prepare all your defensive documents to dispute it. Do not sign anything and don’t agree to anything without having it in writing in case the creditor is determined to make you pay.
It may take some time and effort, but as long you follow all of the steps above and stay organized regarding your paperwork, you’ll have the issue resolved and be able to setting back into your normal routine.
How to Prevent your Identity from Being Stolen
Whether you’ve experienced identity theft or not, most people are at risk of becoming the next victim, even your kids. Luckily, there are several ways you can try and prevent identity theft from affecting you.
Check your Credit Report: Checking your credit report regularly for changes or inaccuracies is a great active way to prevent identity theft. You can check your complete report from all credit bureaus by signing up for a free service like Credit Sesame that will monitor your credit from two of the three main bureaus.
Protect your Computer: Install spyware programs and update your firewall to protect your personal information from thieves who use software and viruses to hack the information stored on your computer. Also, make sure you use secure wireless networks when you are away from home.
Be Mindful of What You Carry With You: Don’t carry personal information around like your pin or account numbers or your social security card. If you ever lose your wallet or have it stolen, a lot could be at risk if you carry around personal information like that. Only consider carrying information on you like your passport, blank checks, etc. if you plan to use it that day and be mindful of how you maintain your privacy when out in public.
Shred Important Documents: If you’re decluttering or need to get rid of certain documents, make sure you shred them safety and throw the pieces in separate garbage bags to avoid allowing anyone to gain access to personal information like your account numbers and social security number.
Be Careful When Shopping Online: Make sure you shop on safe and secured websites if you need to make any online purchases. Unfortunately, even well-known and trusted companies (like Target and Home Depot) have gotten hacked before. This has put customers’ information at risk, so it’s best to be safe and check out with PayPal as often as you can if the website uses that form of payment.
Sign up with an Identity Protection Company: An identity protection company will help you do all of the above and more when it comes to protecting you from becoming the next victim of identity theft. Most companies possess cutting edge programs and encryption software to monitor your credit and identity 24/7, scan the internet to remove any public information that you want private, and alert you and the credit bureaus when any fraudulent activity is suspected quickly.
These companies require paid memberships that run anywhere from $10 to $30 per month, but for some people, it’s worth the investment. Another great benefit about these companies is that they often offer lost wallet protection and insurance in the event that your identity is stolen while you’re a member.
As a result, you wouldn’t have to spend any money out of pocket or go through the tedious process of trying to restore your identity on your own. I highly recommend Identity Force.
Posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2014 by Edwin C
Your credit history is your biggest asset. It can help you score a job, a car and a house. It takes years of responsible fiscal behavior to build up a score you can be proud of. But if you get your identity stolen it can wreak havoc on your score. Just one incident of a compromised identity can erase years of hard work. To ensure that you don’t become the next victim of identity theft, follow these 9 ways to keep you safe from identity theft.
Shred Your Documents
I hate when companies send mail with my personal information on it. My credit card used to send me a statement with my full credit card number on it. The IRS always makes sure to include my SSN on every page of correspondence. Countless others include more personal information than just your name and address.
When your personally identifiable information is on documents, shred it. Don’t just rip it in half, but really shred it good. Get a cross cut paper shredder that will completely eradicate all traces of your private information on any paperwork.
Be Careful Who You Share Your Information With
If you’re doing to tell someone enough information that they can steal your identity, you’ve got to be able to trust them. So never give out your info to anyone who initiates contact with you because you never know who they truly are. If you get an email or a phone call where they need to “verify” your information, delete the email or hang up on them.
When ordering something online, only shop from trusted sources. Make sure the page you’re inputting your credit card information says https in the address bar, so you know your information is being sent encrypted. If you find a really good deal at an unknown website that may seem fishy to you, use your PayPal account to pay. That way, you’re not sharing your credit card information and you’re also protected in case the item never arrives, as PayPal will refund you the money if you file a claim.
Keep Your Social Security Number A Secret
Identity thieves can do major damage if they have your social security number. They can open credit cards in your name, run up charges and never pay the bill. Then months (or years) later you’ll apply for credit and be denied because of these delinquent accounts.
To avoid being another statistic keep your SSN under wraps. Nobody legally is required to obtain your SSN. A company may ask you for it, but that’s just their company policy, not the law. If a business asks you for your SSN to do a credit check and you don’t want to furnish it, you can instead choose to place a deposit on your account.
Keep Your Cards At Home
Purses and wallets are stolen all the time. Frequently, thieves are not after your cash, but after your documents. Sure they’ll take your cash and buy a few beers. Sure they might use your credit card to make a few unauthorized charges. But it’s your social security card or passport they want. They can sell these on the black market for a pretty penny.
You don’t ever need to carry your social security card with you and unless you’re traveling you don’t need to carry your passport around either. As for your credit cards, you can carry just the one card you plan on using. You can also use Google Wallet so you can pay at many retailers using your smartphone. This way you can truly be safe and keep all your cards at home.
Check Your Credit Report
Due to the rash of identity theft crimes, the government now allows you to check your credit report for free every twelve months. You can make it a habit to check it every year after the new year or after you file your taxes.
Go to CreditSesame to review your free credit report. If you notice anything untoward take action immediately before the situation gets worse.
Freeze Your Credit
To truly protect your credit score, you can “lock” your credit with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. When your account is frozen, nobody (not even you) can apply for credit. If you haven’t already been a victim of identity theft, there is a small charge for this. Depending on the state you live in, the fees range from free to $10 per agency.
This is a good idea if you already have a car and a house, don’t plan on opening a new credit card and have no plans to ask for a loan anytime soon. If you are, not to worry, you can un-freeze it for a period of time or for a particular bank/company.
Hide Your Important Documents
When a thief breaks into your house, they may not be looking to steal your Xbox or laptop. When they rummage through your drawers they may not be looking for jewelry. They want your documents. For thieves, it’s easier to sell your information than it is to sell or pawn your goods.
It is imperative that you hide (or lock up) your social security card, tax forms and travel documents. If you put your items in a safe that isn’t bolted down, they’ll simply take the whole safe. So hiding them in your top secret hiding spot is a better option.
Protect Your Information Online
Thieves love the anonymity the online world gives them because it reduces the chances of being caught stealing. To reduce the chances of being a victim of online identity theft, be careful who you share your information with. Here are a few savvy tips:
- Don’t click on links in emails. If you get a message from your bank, type the url of your bank directly in the address bar to ensure you won’t become the victim of a “phishing” scam.
- Add a password to your wireless connection. Not only do you prevent neighbors from leeching off your internet but hackers can get into your network and steal your valuable data.
- Use complex passwords. There are programs hackers use that will attempt to break into your accounts. Once they know your username or email, their program will attempt to guess your password. It will go through a list of all names, cities, words, numbers and more. To thwart them, use a password that includes at least 3 of the following: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. This will make it exponentially more difficult for the program to guess your password.
Erase Your Hard Drive
Before you sell your tablet, smartphone, computer or an old hard drive, completely wipe it clean. You don’t need to be an expert on computing to be able to do it. Just Google “how to erase data on a [name of product]”. This goes for selling it on eBay, gifting it to a friend or donating it. You never know whose hands your data will end up in.
I highly recommend Identity Force to protect you and your family.
4 Signs You’re In Financial Trouble..by
Almost everyone at some point carries a credit card balance or misses a bill payment. But how do you know when the sum of those lapses has left you on financial thin ice. Here are 4 signs you’re in financial trouble.
Number 1, you have no emergency savings. Having no cash stashed for a medical emergency or a car accident may force you to borrow just to cover your basic financial obligations, like rent and food. Research has shown 24% of Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings, and 28% have no savings at all. Put away at least six months of living expenses, just in case.
2, You took out a payday loan. These short-term loans are a bad idea. If you annualize the interest and fees that come with such loans, the annual rate can range from 400 to 500%. Bank or credit card loans are better options.
3, You’re only making the minimum monthly payments on your debts. Lenders keep minimum monthly requirements low in the hopes your balance will pile up interest. For example, consider a credit card with a $1,000 balance, an 18% annual interest rate, and a minimum monthly payment of interest plus 1% of the balance. If you just pay the minimum, it will take you 113 months and $923 in interest to pay it off.
And 4, You stopped saving for retirement. After meeting your daily obligations, put what you can in your retirement fund. That gives your money time to grow so you can enjoy your golden years.
For more information and resources, please check out my other blog posts and pages.