Over the last couple of weeks we have looked at steps you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. I wish I could tell you that by applying these simple steps you can avoid any opportunity of becoming a victim of this crime. Unfortunately, I can not guarantee that kind of success. Identity theft is on the rise according to the 2009 Javelin Strategy and Research affecting about 10 million people, which is a 22% increase from 2008. These numbers reflect the stark reality that identity theft is not going away. We need to be prepared and know what to do if we become a victim.
Act immediately: if you determine that you are a victim of identity theft, according to the California Attorney General Office, you must act quickly to minimize the damages.
Report Identity Theft to All Three Credit Bureaus: Contact the fraud department of Trans Union, Experian and Equifax and report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that the fraud alert be put on your file. These alerts stay active for 90 days and will ensure that creditors must verify your identity before making any changes to your accounts or opening new accounts.
File Reports with Law Enforcement: File a report with the police department and the Federal Trade Commission. When you file a police report bring as much information as possible with you. After you file, make sure to get a copy for your files. When you file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.giv/idetheft) to give law enforcement to help fight identity theft.
Contact all your Creditors: Make a list of who you need to contact. Whenever you make these calls, write down the date and time and the name of the person that you talked to, along with any notes from the call. Make sure you follow up those initial calls with a certified letter.
Monitor your Credit Report Regularly: When you reach out to notify the credit bureaus that you have been a victim of fraud get a free copy of your credit report. Check it carefully for any companies you don’t recognize, accounts you did not open or unknown charges on your accounts.
Contest the Bills that Result from Identity Theft: Close any accounts that many have been tampered with or opened without your knowledge. Ask for the fraud department at each company. Then ask for a fraud dispute form to dispute charges or new accounts that have been opened. If the company does not have a special form send a letter to the address given for billing inquires.
Follow Up: Make sure you follow up with phone calls, in writing, and follow up your letters with phone calls, especially to credit bureaus, banks, and credit card companies. Use certified mail. Keep a copy of all correspondence in your file. Once you have resolved any disputed charges or accounts with a company, ask them to put it in writing for you to confirm that the disputes have been settled.
Be Persistent: I need to warn you this is not going to be an easy process. I want to encourage you to be persistent and aggressive. If someone is not giving you the help or answers you need, ask to speak to a supervisor.
For More Information: If you need additional assistance or need information about what to do for other types of identity theft, Check out this website for more information. http://.ag.ca.gov/idtheft/tips.php
I hope this information has been helpful. Please check back next week, we will be discussing tax issues and concerns that you might be thinking about as we approach tax day on April 15th.
It is my desire that you are inspired to be a good steward over these three areas of your life: Time, Talent, Treasure. Time, you must learn to manage your time; talent you have skills and gifts and lastly treasure, your finances need to managed appropriately. All of these areas work together; when they are managed properly you will be able to become A BETTER YOU!
Disclaimer: The goal of this of this blog is to review identity theft issues that you might experience on your financial journey. The author will not be liable with respect to any direct or indirect loss or damage cause or alleged to be caused by the use of these materials.