Identity Theft - Red Flags That May Indicate You're a Victim
According to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) statistics, there were close to 10 million American identity theft victims in 2003. The Identity Theft Resource Center indicates the average identity theft victim spends 607 hours to clear his or her credit records. The simple steps I've outlined here will aid you in the early detection of identity theft before it gets out of hand. Early detection is key to protecting your valuable credit rating.
You've heard the "buzz" about identity theft, but what exactly is identity theft? According to Wikipedia, identity theft (or identity fraud) is the deliberate assumption of another person's identity, usually to gain access to their finances or frame them for a crime.
"Dumpster diving" (someone going through your trash), "shoulder surfing" (someone watching from a nearby location as you punch in your credit card number or ATM PIN # or eavesdropping as you give your personal information over the phone) and "phishing" (someone sending an email that appears to be from a legitimate business) are only a few ways of obtaining your personal information.
Once they have obtained your personal information, identity thieves often change the address on your bills, keeping you unaware that your identity has been stolen unless you are aware of when your bills normally arrive in the mail, keep track of what you charge and check your credit reports annually. Here are several red flags that indicate you may be a victim of identity theft:
1. You check your credit reports annually and find there are new charge cards showing with companies you don't know.
2. You receive a bill for a credit card account you didn't open.
3. You notice charges on your credit card statement you did not authorize. 4. You haven't received your bills or credit card statements when they normally arrive.
5. Your bank statements show unauthorized transfers or withdrawals. 6. You receive a call from a collection agency about an account you never opened.
7. You receive calls from businesses about merchandise you didn't buy.
8. You're denied credit because debts show up on your credit reports that don't belong to you.
If you notice any of these red flags, don't panic - there may be a logical explanation. But DO follow up on it right away. If it appears you may be a victim of identity theft, go to http://understandingidentitytheft.com/articles/article-67.html for a list of steps you should take immediately to rectify the situation.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Debbie Pettitt is the webmaster of two web sites designed to provide you the latest news and information on identity theft and credit scores. For further information on identity theft, visit http://understandingidentitytheft.com. For information on how to check and/or correct your credit score, go to http://yourcreditscoreranking.com