Did you know 10 million people per year are victims of identity theft?

What is id theft? Id theft is when an imposter is using your personal information for his own use. He may be using your name, social security number, credit cards, checks, etc. As a result, he’s damaging your credit. Most of the time, your not aware for weeks or months after.

No one is immune to id theft. Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter. Your name and social security can be used to set up an account, for whatever the imposter wants. The Secret Service and the Federal Trade Commission says it’s the fastest growing crime in the U.S. 10 million people per year are victims of id theft, it increased by 87% between 2001-2002, by 79% between 2002-2003. 85% of people find out about the crime after being denied a credit card or receiving an unknown bill. Id theft is also one of the least convicted crimes in America (under 5% are arrested). Top ten worse states for id theft are:

1. Arizona         6. Florida

2. Nevada          7. New York

3. California      8. Washington

4. Texas             9. Oregon

5. Colorado       10. Illinois

If you’re a victim of id theft, act quickly. Notify the credit bureaus. There are 3 that needs to be notified. When you notify one bureau, it will notify the other two. The bureaus will flag your file with a credit alert, creditors will call you first, before giving credit. The three bureaus are: Equifax (800) 525-6285, Experian (888) 397-3742, Trans Union (800) 680-7289. They will mail you your rights as a victim. After receiving your rights, request a free copy of your credit report from each bureau. If you have a police report, you can request to be on fraud alert for up to 7 years.

Examine each credit alert. Check for any discrepancies. If you have fraudulent accounts, report them to the credit bureaus and the credit issuers. Send them a copy of the report. The bureau is required to remove the fraudulent accounts. You will have to continue to check your credit report for discrepancies. Credit issuers don’t always pay attention to fraud alerts, so follow up in a few months. Federal law allows you to receive a second free copy of your credit report. Even if your not a victim of id theft, some states allow a free copy of your credit report, yearly.

You should also notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the id theft. Provide them with as much information as possible. The FTC is the federal clearinghouse of id theft complaints. They provide victims with information to resolve the problem. Because the FTC is an electronic database, any complaints are available to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials worldwide. FTC hotline: (877) 438-4338.

If debt collectors ask that you pay a fraudulent account, refuse. Tell them you are a victim of id theft and not responsible for the account. Ask them what information do they need from you to prove this (their fraud affidavit form, FTC affidavit). Write them a letter explaining the fraud, send copies of  requested forms, and ask for a return letter resolving the debt.

When dealing with id theft, prevention is the key. Here are ways to prevent id theft:

1. Check your credit report, yearly. This report provide an early warning of id theft.

2. Secure your mail. Some mailboxes have a lock or keypad to share with your post office.

3. Shred your trash. Shedders are an inexpensive purchase for your protection. Some shredders chop your credit cards too.

4. If you feel that one of your accounts have been compromised, change the account number. Any account number can be changed.

5. Keep all forms of identification, that you don’t carry, in a safe location. These forms shouldn’t be in view. A fireproof box is recommended.

6. Sign the back of your credit card with, “see id”. This will prompt the clerk to ask for id  before allowing purchases.

7. When ordering new checks, have the bank hold on to them. You can pick them up when your in the bank.

8. Online banking is an excellent way to keep a close eye on financial accounts. If your bank offers it, take advantage. If there’s any abnormal activities, you can call your bank immediately.

There are times when individuals have taken every precaution and still fall prey to id theft. In this case, you must be on top of the situation. Keep organized files, have all papers copied and keep originals. Don’t waste time, contact companies and address the problem.