Today, we’re pleased to share an article from BALANCE Financial Fitness.
Someone may be masquerading as you and creating debts in your name even as you read these words. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in our country today. Many victims remain unaware they’ve fallen prey to this new breed of criminal until they attempt to get a loan and find out their credit rating has been damaged by fraudulent unpaid accounts.
Guarding your personal information is key to prevention. Criminals often call their victims and obtain account information, driver license numbers and Social Security numbers by posing as merchants, financial institutions, or even law enforcement. Another common practice is stealing mail or sorting through trash for information they can use to access the accounts you already have, and to create new accounts for their use.
With so much of your personal information available, it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate the risk of identity theft, but you can take steps to limit it:
- Don’t give personal information to anyone over the phone unless you initiate the contact.
- Shred all of your important or personal documents.
- Be sure any on-line transactions take place on secure Web sites.
- Review your credit report regularly to spot suspicious activity. Under federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – once every 12 months. The bureaus have established one central service for consumers to contact:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
www.annualcreditreport.com | 877.322.8228
You can obtain your three reports all at once or stagger your requests throughout the year. Your credit score is not included with the report, although you can purchase it for a fee.
If you do find that you have been victimized, take heart. You can recover your good credit with perseverance and knowledge of your rights and responsibilities.
Peach State has partnered with BALANCE, a financial education and counseling service committed to helping people take control of their finances. BALANCE counselors can review your credit report, and provide strategies to limit your risk of identity theft and steps to recover if you’ve already been victimized. Call 888.456.2227 to speak with a financial counselor about your credit report, identity theft or other financial concerns.