Identity Theft Basics
7. Guard your credit cards and PINs/passwords
Minimize the information and the number of cards you carry in your wallet. Do not keep personal identification numbers (PINs) or other credit card access codes with your credit card. If you lose a card, contact the fraud division of the credit card company immediately. If you apply for a new credit card and it does not arrive in a reasonable period, contact the issuer. Watch cashiers when you give them your card for a purchase. Also, when you receive a new card, sign it in permanent ink and activate it immediately. Memorize your passwords and PINs instead of carrying them with you. Avoid using easily available information passwords, like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security Number or phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
10. Protect your computer
Viruses and other malware are rampant on the Internet, so keep your anti-virus software up-to-date. Use caution when downloading information, and be sure you know that the source is credible. When downloading e-mail attachments, perform a virus scan first — even if you know the person who sent it to you -- as his or her own e-mail account may have been compromised.
n III. What to Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
If you suspect that someone has used your name, Social Security Number, or other personal information to get credit or a loan, the following information can help you:
Keep a record
agencies and check for any new accounts opened in your name. Because new accounts may take up to six months to show up on the report, continue to monitor your credit reports. A Three-Bureau Credit Report from Equifax will give you a line by line comparison of your credit history as reported to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Contact any of the credit reporting agencies
Contact any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies and request that an initial 90 day fraud alert be placed on your credit file. Once your alert is placed on your credit file at one of the nationwide credit reporting agencies, it will automatically be forwarded to the other two so that you do not need to contact each of them separately.
8. Pay attention to billing cycles
Contact lenders immediately if your bills arrive late. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address.
9. Safeguard personal information in your home
Make sure that sensitive personal information, such as bank statements, Social Security paperwork, passports, etc., is stored in a safe place in your home. If you have a service appointment requiring outside help to enter your residence, pay special attention to ensure your personal information is secure. If you are unable to be at home for the duration of the appointment, consider asking a friend or family member to help.
Recovering from identity theft can be a long and complicated process, so it is important to keep a record of all communications. Send all letters by certified mail and keep copies. If you think your case might lead to a lawsuit, keep track of how much time you spend dealing with the problem.
Call the police
Report the crime to the police or sheriff’s department that has jurisdiction in your case and request a police report. Though the authorities may be limited in what they can do to help, a report may be necessary to help convince lenders that someone else has opened an account in your name.
Check your credit report
Get your credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting
Subscribe to a credit monitoring product
Products like Equifax Complete Advantage or Equifax Complete Premier monitor activity in your credit file. When there are changes to key information, like when new credit accounts are applied for in your name, you receive an alert. You can then view the alert, which will describe the change to your credit file, so that you can make sure it is not the result of identity theft or fraud. You can also help prevent identity theft from taking place by using the Automatic Fraud Alert feature (included with Equifax Complete Premier), which enables you to place a fraud alert on your Equifax credit file (and referred to the other nationwide credit reporting agencies) and is automatically renewed every 90 days. This prompts lenders to take steps to verify your identity, such as by
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