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Tell-tale signs of identity theft and 3 simple ways to deal with it

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By: NathanielCopeland
on 26th Jun,2014

The identities of individual consumers have been reduced to a set of numbers and letters on the back of a card or under a paper check.
Tell-tale signs of identity theft and 3 simple ways to deal with it

The United States economic system and its finance financial sector is built around FICO scores, credit lines, electronic transaction systems and digital personnel records. The identities of individual consumers have been reduced to a set of numbers and letters on the back of a card or under a paper check. The physical value of identity, having been reduced to electronic codes has led to the birth of identity theft.

This new breed of criminals gather financial information, like credit card or social security number of different people and uses it for various purposes without their explicit knowledge. This particularly type of crime has seen an increased rate of incidence in the last few years.

Identifying identity theft

In most cases, the victims of identity theft and fraud remain unaware of the situation until it is too late to do anything significant. According to the FTC, the statistics say that the average victim is unaware of the situation for at least 12 months. Here are a few tell-tale signs that you might be a victim of identity theft.

    You receive calls from collection agencies stating that they are collecting on an account that you have never opened or even heard of.

    Your credit report shows that you have accounts in negative standing which you have never opened or heard of.

    Your monthly credit card or bank statement shows transactions or withdrawals that you are not aware of.

    You have stopped receiving your credit card statements altogether.

    Your mail has been going missing for a while

Dealing with identity theft

If you have managed to conclusively identify the fact that you are a victim of identity theft, you must immediately take a few necessary steps to raise an alarm, manage the problem and alert your creditors and the authorities.

    Place a fraud alert on your credit report - You can call up the 3 major credit reporting agencies (CRAs), namely Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact just one of the CRAs since the one you report to is obligated to call up the other two CRAs and inform them. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report will prevent the identity thief from opening any further lines of credit in your name. After placing the fraud alert on your credit report, you will be entitled to a free copy from all the 3 CRAs. You will need to sit down and review all the copies of your credit report and find out which of the accounts appearing on the reports don't belong to you. You will need to send an Identity Theft Report along with a cover letter to the CRAs explaining your request to have all the fraudulent and inaccurate information removed from your credit report.

    Close the compromised and fraudulent accounts - You will need to call each of the companies and talk to their security and fraud cell. Ask the representative to send you the company's fraud dispute form. Notify each of the companies in writing and attach copies of the necessary documents. Send the letters via return receipt mail and keep a track of your communications with the companies. It is a good idea to file a police complaint before you file identity theft dispute with the companies as this will act as added reinforcement for your case.

    Lodge complaints with the Federal Trade Commission - File a complaint with the FTC over the phone using their toll free number or use the online complaint form. Sharing the information with the FTC will help them as well as the law to track down the criminals. A copy of the complaint form that you had filed with the FTC will also be useful when you file the police complaint. The FTC ID theft complaint paired with a police report will make an excellent Identity Theft Report.

Try to keep a close eye on your credit report and score by using a credit monitoring software. Review your credit report periodically and keep all your personal information like social security number, PIN number, bank account numbers, etc confidential. Identity theft can severely damage your credit report and dampen your chances of getting better rates and terms. You should do everything necessary to keep your financial information confidential and secure.

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