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Identity Theft, America's Fastest Growing Crime


Introduction: Identity Theft, America's Fastest Growing Crime

The 1990’s spawned a new variety of crooks called identity thieves.
Their trade in trade is your everyday transactions, which usually reveal bits of your personal information; your bank and credit card account numbers; your income source; your social security number (SSN); and maybe even your name, address and phone number.
An identity thief obtains some piece of your sensitive information and uses it without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft.
Identity Theft is an unstoppable crime, but there are ways you can minimize your exposure.

Think you’re not at risk? Unfortunately you are.
 Do you hand your credit card to servers at restaurants?
 Do you sign your credit cards?
 Do you supply personal information over the internet?
 Do you keep your social security card in your wallet or purse?
 Do you place outgoing mail in your mail box for the postal carrier to collect?
 Do you use the same PIN number on your debit card year after year?
How Identity Theft Occurs:

 They steal your social security number
 They obtain your credit card number
 They obtain your drivers license number
 They forge documents using your name
 They go through your trash to obtain documents
 They take the outgoing mail from your mailbox

Types and frequency of identity theft according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

 Credit Card Fraud 28%
 Phone or Utility Fraud 19%
 Bank Fraud 18%
 Employment Related Fraud 13%
 Government Document Fraud 8%
 Loan Fraud 5%
 Other Identity Fraud 22%
 Attempted Identity Fraud 6%
What can you do to minimize your risk of identity theft?

Manage and safeguard your personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or having service work done in your home.
Seniors and people receiving in-home medical care need to be especially leery of substitute or last minute changes of your care giver.

How you can tell if your identity has been stolen

 Look for unexplained charges on your accounts
 Receiving credit cards that you did not request
 Failing to receive bills or other mail
 Denial of credit for no apparent reason
 Receiving calls from debt collectors or companies about merchandise or services you did not buy
 Receiving a traffic ticket in the mail for a violation you know you did not commit

Obtain a current credit report from all three credit reporting agencies
 Equifax – www.equifax.com – 800-685-1111
 Experian – www.experian.com – 800-397-3742
 TransUnion – www.transunion.com 800-916-8800

Steps to take if your identity is stolen:

All telephone calls should be followed up in writing; send letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when; and keep copies for your files.

Step #1

Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit report.
Call the toll-free fraud number of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name.
As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts on your credit report, and all three reports will be sent to you free of charge.

Those agency numbers and addresses are:
 Equifax: 800-525-6285, and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
 Experian: 888-397-3742, and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
 TransUnion: 800-680-7289, and write Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Step #2

Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Credit accounts include all accounts with banks, credit card companies, utilities, ISPs, and other service providers. When you open new accounts, make sure you use new and different PINs and passwords.
For all fraudulent charges or debits, file an IDT Affidavit or the company’s fraud dispute forms.
The IDT Affidavit forms can be obtained from the FTC at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affidavit.pdf

Step #3

File a report with you local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Keep a copy of the report. You may need it to validate your claims to creditors. If you can’t get a copy, at least get the report number.

Step #4

File a complaint with the FTC:
By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials track down identity thieves and stop them.

The FTC also can refer victim complaints to other appropriate government agencies and companies for further action.

The FTC enters the information you provide into their secure database.

To file a complaint, visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft. You can also call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at 877-438-4338, or write: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission. 600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

All four of the previously described steps are costly and time consuming, and really should be carried out by someone who is knowledgeable in the area of identity restoration.
Would you know what to do if it happened to you?
What’s your plan?

A professional thief can assume your identity in just a few hours, but it can take years for you to restore your identity and can cost an average of $1200 in the quest to clear your name.

Additional Steps You Can Take
Identity theft is truly an unstoppable crime, but the FTC and other industry experts advise that there is a way to lessen the impact if your identity is compromised.

The recommendation is to purchase one of the increasingly popular “identity theft protection plans” that are currently on the market.
An ideal plan would be one that provides you with a current credit report, continuous credit monitoring, and assistance with identity restoration. The earlier you are made aware of a breach of your privacy, the easier to minimize your loss.

References:
1. Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission 600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington, DC 20580 1-877-438-4338
2. Legal Shield,Inc.(formerly Pre-Paid Legal Services) One Pre-Paid Way Ada, OK 74820 1-800-654-7757
3. Life Lock 60 East Rio Salado, Suite 400 Tempe, AZ 85281 1-877-529-9826



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