Identity theft can happen to anyone. It can happen to you as an adult. It can happen to your child. It can happen to you even if you’re dead. It can be through a credit card, through your taxes, through your bank account and so on. All a person needs to steal your identity is a few key pieces of information which most people leave out in the open, like: your birthdate, address and phone number. Once identity thieves get access to this information they can do further research and pull up your social security number, employment history and credit history. They can use this information to “verify” your identity when falsely applying for credit under your name. They can use your social security number to file for income tax refunds, credit cards and bank accounts. They can even get a job using your information and you must pay the taxes.
Steps to take if you think your identity has been stolen:
1. Check your wallet or purse to see if you are missing an ID or any kind
of card that has your personal information.
2. Review your credit card and bank balances for accuracy.
3. Check your credit report to see if there have been any unusual credit inquires.
4. Submit a request to EQUIFAX for your credit report (www.equifax.com).
5. Submit a request to TransUnion for your credit report (www.transunion.com).
6. Submit a request to Experian for your credit report (www.experian.com).
7. Make sure to thoroughly check ALL three of your credit reports. Some companies only report to one or two credit reporting agencies. It is essential to make sure the information in ALL the reports are accurate.
8. When or if you detect there is an issue with an item reported on your credit report contact the credit reporting agencies immediately and place a fraud alert or fraud hold on your credit reports. A fraud alert would tell the three credit reporting agencies that you have detected fraudulent information on your credit report and would like them to keep an eye out for more. A fraud hold would put a complete hold on your credit report. This means that people would not be able to pull up your credit history. You must contact the credit reporting agency and verify your identity and the credit inquiry.
9. If it’s around tax time make sure to submit your tax return early. If a person files taxes under your name and social security number before you do, you will NOT be able to file your tax documents electronically. That means your processing time will increase significantly. For this reason if you suspect identity fraud the best thing to do is file your taxes early.
10. Dispose of your paperwork properly. We have a lot of information that we often throw away. This information is like gold if identity thieves get their hands on it. Make sure to shred or burn all documents that contain identifying information like your: full legal name, birthdate, address, social security number, and so on.
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