When a thief uses someone else’s name and personal information, such as a credit card, to obtain a loan or mortgage, a line of credit, a bank account, a driver’s license, and other services, this is known as identity theft.
The thief is long gone by the time the victim discovers their identity is being used by someone else, and there is little prospect of ever capturing or prosecuting them. An identity thief may also perform crimes in the victim’s name, such as fraud and other felonies, and the victim may be falsely arrested as a result.
When this kind of damage to a consumer’s finances happens, the recovery can take years. Today, most people have credit cards, do extensive searches on the Internet and carry out online financial transactions.
This is the most common place where a thief will try to pose as a legitimate representative of a company that the consumer regularly does business with and get their personal information by asking for verification of their account.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) there are several things a consumer can do to protect against this kind of theft.
• Never give out personal information to someone who contacts you on their own initiative. The caller can be asked for their name and phone number, and the consumer might inform them they will call back when they have time. It is not advisable to use the caller’s phone number. The consumer can discover a phone number on the business’s or institution’s statement or website and call it back.
• Consumers should have passwords for all of their bank accounts, credit cards, and lines of credit. The password should be complex and not include a number that is easily guessed, such as a birthday or wedding anniversary date. A strong password should have a mix of letters and numbers, according to experts.
• A social security card should be kept in a secure location and only carried in a wallet or purse when absolutely necessary. Identity theft becomes incredibly easy if a social security card is taken.
• Consumers should only provide their social security numbers if it is absolutely necessary for a lawful transaction. If a caller requests their social security number, the consumer should inquire as to why it is required and whether they are legally obligated to disclose it for the transaction’s purposes. The social security number is not necessary in most circumstances.
• It is recommended for consumers to use a confetti shredder for any paper or plastic that contains personal information. This includes junk mail with the name and address, credit card solicitations and bank or credit card statements, expired credit cards as well as insurance, medical and library cards. The address label on magazines should be shredded before the magazine is discarded.
Consumers should also watch their important documents carefully. If bank or credit card statements stop arriving in the mail, the address may have been changed by a thief. If catalogs and brochures start arriving for products that the consumer has never used, it may be a sign that someone else is buying these products with false financial information.
It is also important to take advantage of the one free credit report that reporting agencies are required by law to give each person. Consumers can immediately see if there are purchases on their report that they didn’t make. More information can be found on the FTC’s website.
victim of identity theft?
If a consumer believes he or she is the victim of identity theft, there are several steps they can take to deal with the situation properly.
• Put a fraud alert on their credit reports. This will stop any more accounts being opened in the consumer’s name. All three credit reporting agencies will need to be contacted: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. After putting the alert, the consumer will be entitled to a free report from each agency. He or she must look for transactions on the report that they did not initiate.
• The victim should immediately contact the FTC. They have a phone hotline as well as an online complaint site. They will direct the consumer to the agencies such as social security and the postal department where they can also file a complaint.
• Victims should also report to the local police department in the area where they believe the theft occurred. They can take a copy of their FTC complaint and ask the police for a copy of their report. If it becomes possible to litigate against the thief, these documents will be necessary. Depending on the extent of the theft, it may be wise to consult an attorney.
If your identity is stolen, there is a new insurance option that might help you recover financially. It is feasible to prevent this type of invasion of privacy from becoming worse and fully damaging a consumer’s financial condition if they take the time and effort to call professionals and deal with it as soon as they believe it is happening.