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Identity Theft Statistics and Information
Identity theft is more common than you might think. According to CBSnews.com, “Every 79 seconds, a thief steals someone’s identity, opens accounts in the victim’s name, and goes on a buying spree.”
To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft you should regularly check your credit report for any unusual account activity. TransUnion, which is one of the three major credit bureaus, encourages consumers to check their credit reports once every 3 months, if not more often.
What to Do When You Suspect Fraudulent Activity
If you suspect any unusual activity in your credit report or think that you may have become a victim of identity theft, the first step should be to immediately place a fraud alert on your credit report. You can place a fraud alert by contacting any one of the credit reporting agencies.
What Happens After You Place a Fraud Alert
Once you have placed the fraud alert, you should take the steps necessary to notify your creditors and make sure your finances are safe.
- Close your accounts to reduce any further damage.
- File an official police report where the identity theft took place. (Remember to save a copy in case your creditors need proof of the crime.)
- The final step should be to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
How to Protect Yourself from Online Identity Theft
The Department of Justice says there are three basic rules you should follow when dealing with questionable emails and websites:
- Stop – Scammers include false statements to deliberately upset or excite you. They actually count on the fact that you will react to the email on impulse, click on the link and give them your personal data. Resist your impulse to click and take the time to examine the email more closely.
- Look – Examine the email and take a moment to consider if the contents make sense. Be suspicious of any email encouraging you to give out your bank accounts, credit card information, or other personal data. If you’re visiting an unknown website, make sure the URL is secure by checking to see if ‘https’ is present.
- Call – If you think the email may be legitimate, take the time to look up the company’s phone number and call to verify the email’s contents. Do not call the phone number in the email. Instead, call the toll-free customer service number on the back of your credit card or on your account statement.
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