Frequently Asked Questions
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft or identity fraud is the misappropriation and use of a person's private data for improper purposes. Usually the impersonator is trying to steal the victim's identity to obtain credit, credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from the victim's existing accounts, apply for loans, establish accounts with utility companies, rent an apartment, file bankruptcy or obtain a job using the victim's name. The impersonator is able to do all of this easily by stealing Social Security Numbers, drivers license numbers, PIN numbers, and dates of birth. Thousands of dollars are stolen by the impersonator without the victim even knowing about it.
Who's most likely to steal your identity?
Surprisingly, information is most likely stolen by people known to the victim. It's usually someone who has the victims trust, close relatives, friends, neighbors, work colleagues, or household employees. Other common identity thieves are employees of entities that routinely access personal information, such as employees at banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, and even retailers and restaurants that routinely process credit card information.
Where does the thief obtain your information?
There are many places where thieves can obtain your information, usually these places are places you trust. Places such as your doctor, dentist, lawyer, school, work, health insurance carrier, all have your personal information as well as many other places. If someone at any of those places stole your information and began the identity theft process you wouldn't know about it. Stolen purses and wallets are also a very common source of identity theft. Mailboxes and recycling bins are major targets, "Dumpster-divers" can get your information easily if you don't use a shredder. Shredding anything with confidential information about you would be a good idea things such as bills, credit card slips, and other documents are easy to get, but by simply shredding them no one would be have access to your information. If any person obtains this information they will be able to access whatever else they need to become you.
What can you do to stop fraud?
In most cases a creditor will contact you to let you know you will be denied credit, or you may see different charges on your bill that are not yours. If this happens contact the three major credit reporting agencies by phone and letter to put a fraud alert on your credit profile immediately. Make sure to get copies of the reports so you can figure out which accounts are fraud and cally the police in that county. Dealing with fraud is very complex and probably won't be stopped immediately but taking some of these steps is a start.
If you are a victim of identity-theft should you change your social security number?
Changing your social security number is probably a bad idea. That number has been many times through out your life on very important documents. It is attatched to differnet things including your credit report and various governmental documents. Changing your social security number would be a major hassle because you would have to attatch that number on every document your old security number was on. In doing so it could look suspicious to creditors and employers by making you look like the thief instead of the victim.
How are you able to detect if your identity has been stolen?
Carefully monitor bills and bank statements for suspicious activity and look for any purchases you didn't make. If you have been recieving statements and they suddenly stop, you should contact that source. Be sure to review your credit reports to discover unauthorized activity on a regular basis.
If you have been a victim of identity theft should you cancel all your credit cards?
No. Due to the fruad your credit worthiness will be shaky and will make it hard to getting new credit later on. You may have trouble getting loans, rental cars or even a job if you stop your credit. Instead notify each credit grantor of your true accounts and let them know you are a victim of identity theft. You should set a new password and try to refrain from using your birthday, mother's maiden name, or any personal information, not even your pet's name. Your new password should be something totally random and should be used on all the accounts so there's no confusion.
Should you worry about your children's Identity?
Whether it be a small child or a full grown adult, no matter what your age you can be a victim of Identity theft. Usually adults find out that there identity was stolen when they were just a child, or they find out about the crime through a relative. For the child victim category, the parent must act on their behalf.
Will buying a service help protect your identity against identity theft?
There are many different things you can to do protect yourself against identity theft. By law consumers are allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies Equifax, Credit Union, and Equifax. The best thing to do is to stagger your free requests through out the year so that you recieve a report every four months. There are limitations to this and there are other resolutions. Other support services are available and can assist you if you feel you need further protection.