The number of online and offline identity thefts happening in the United States is staggering. For most people, it is not about whether or not they will become the next victim of an identity theft criminal anymore, but about when and how much damage it will cause on their credit rating. Not knowing your credit score is one thing, but not becoming aware that your personal information has been compromised takes ignorance to a whole new level.
What you need to do in order to protect your identity from criminals is take a few preventative steps, for free. This means, keeping an eye on your monthly statements from banks and credit card companies. While consumers can take certain precautions on their own, there are firms that offer this service along with an online security awareness training, saving time and providing convenience as well as peace of mind. Note that, these services are fee-based, but it’s worth subscribing for one. Not only will you save time but you don’t have to go through the various process of notifying and correcting the errors.
So, how do you know that you are one of the victims of identity thieves lurking around. There are several warning signs, the obvious being:
- Your credit card or bank statement is showing a new charge that you don’t recognize
- Statements and bills have suddenly stopped coming at your doorstep
- Credit report shows a new account or credit card opened in your name that you are unaware of
- Bills and statements are arriving from companies that you have never done business with
- Calls and threats from collection agencies are starting to arrive about accounts that you never opened
That is so much information to digest knowing that it can happen to anybody irrespective of gender, race, age or financial status. And if it is happening to you, it is likely that you are in the panic mode for as long as the issue is resolved. For those who are able to control their emotions, the first step to do if you are a victim of identity theft is to contact the creditors and banks immediately. If the credit or debit card is stolen, let the bank know it and put a freeze on the cards. The second step is to notify the local police department even if the theft took place online or outside the local area. If social security number is stolen, the social security administration office needs to know.
After this, collect as many documents as possible related to the theft. These include but not limited to, statements, bills, emails, credit reports and ID cards. Change the PINs and passwords wherever necessary. Contact the department for fraud victims to place fraud alert on your account. Your credit report agency will be notified of the theft. Banks and credit card companies will make this information available to creditors and lenders as well. You are hopefully in safe hands at this point.