More and more often, employers, landlords, insurance companies, credit grantors, etc, are using information from your credit file to make important decisions. It is a legal way for them to protect themselves and know more about you. And sometimes you may be surprise with their decisions!
Skilled identity thieves use a variety of methods, low-tech and high tech – to gain access to your data. Some methods include: Unfortunately, credit fraud is steadily increasing, and the Federal Trade Commissions says that identity theft is the top consumer complaint in the USA today.
Identity theft is unauthorized use of your name or credit identity for fraudulent reasons. Sophisticates thieves steal information such as a credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account numbers, and social security numbers or other pieces of your personal information for their own use. With the information in hand they can obtain loans, buy real estate, or anything imaginable, all in your name!
• Stealing your wallet or purse containing your identification and credit and bank cards.
• Stealing your mail, including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers and tax information.
• Fraudulently obtaining your credit report by posing as a landlord or employer.
• Buying your personal information from “inside” sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store, restaurant, or hotel employee for information about you.
• Taking information about you from the internet.
In California there are 3 laws to help protect you against identity theft:
A) SB 125 requires credit grantors to give you information about unauthorized requests for credit made in your name once you submit an identity theft police report.
B) AB655 requires people that who is reviewing your credit report in connection with a credit application to take reasonable steps to verify the address and to confirm the credit transactions
are not the results of identity theft when the address on the report and the applications do not match.
C) SB 168 restricts the use of your Social Security number as a means of identification in numerous situations.
While you probably can’t prevent identity thief entirely, the Federal Trade commission along with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advise the following to minimize your risks:
• Before revealing any personal information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others.
• Pay attention to your billing cycles. Contact your creditors immediately if your bill doesn’t show up on time.
• Minimize the number of credit cards you carry; only carry the ones you need, maybe 2, and switch them sometimes.
• Guard your mail from theft. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office.
• Keep items with personal information in a safe place. To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash to capture your personal information, you should tear or shred your charge receipts, copies or credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks, and statements that you are discarding, expired charge cards and credit offers you get in the mail.
• Don’t carry your SSN card, and give out it only when is absolutely necessary. And much important: Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureau agencies at least at once a year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only those activities you have authorized.
All Americans residents who want to make sure their credit reports are accurate or check their financial histories can get the information for free under a government program that started last end of 2004. The Federal Trade Commission is rolling out the service in phases. First, residents in 13 Western states will get first crack at requesting a free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus.
Before, consumers had access to free credit reports only if they were denied credit, unemployed, on welfare or believed that they were victims of identity theft. A handful of states also allow residents access to free reports. People in Midwestern states were eligible for free reports since March 1, 2005, Southern states will enjoy starting June 1 and Eastern states on Sept. 1.
To get a free credit report, consumers can log on to www.AnnualCreditReport.com, a new Web site created jointly by the credit reporting companies. They also can call 1-877-FTC-HELP or mail a standardized form to Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga. 30348-5281. Consumers are allowed one free report per year from each of the agencies. Credit bureaus are advertising numerous fee-based products and services on the Web site, such as credit-monitoring services, but of course, you are not obligate to purchase.
Better say, there is no reason to pay money for year-round credit monitoring because people already have the right to get free reports if they suspect they are victims of fraud. The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers to beware of scammers who might send e-mails pretending to offer a free report as a way to elicit personal information. Remember, credit bureaus are prohibited from sending e-mails or using pop-up ads.
If you become a victim you need to act fast to stop the thief’s further use of your identity. Report the crime to the police, Call your bank and credit card issues. Contact the fraud unit of the 3 credit bureau and request a “Fraud Alert” to be placed in your file, as well as a victim’s statement asking that creditor call you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing accounts.