With more personal information being shared publicly – especially by social media users and by members of the military who move often – identity theft has become an increasing problem. A skilled ID theft attorney can help you deal with the consequences of this crime. A lawyer can help you deal with bills and collection letters for accounts you don’t recognize, disputes of credit reports containing false information, and more.
Protecting Your Identity
While preventing identity theft is impossible, there are things you can do to make yourself a less attractive target. For example, avoid leaving sensitive documents lying around the house. Keep your Social Security card and other IDs in a secure spot, and don’t carry them around in your wallet. If you receive paperwork, such as bank statements, medical records, and pre-screened credit card offers, shred them before throwing them away.
Criminals can use your personal information to pose as you, drain your bank accounts, get utility service in your name, or obtain jobs and insurance policies. They can also buy goods and services with your credit cards, open new credit lines, and steal your tax refund. Protecting yourself online is especially important because so much of our data is publicly available. Checking for data leaks on sites like F-Secure and Have I Been Pwned is an important step. Consider signing up for an identity protection service. These companies can help you spot suspicious activity and work to resolve it.
Disputes With Credit Bureaus
If you discover an error on your credit report, it’s important to dispute that information immediately. Those errors, such as misspelled names, wrong addresses and transposed Social Security number digits, can impact your ability to obtain credit cards, loans and insurance. For any suspicious activity, it’s also important to check your credit reports from the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) annually. Credit identity thieves have many tools to steal personal information such as names, dates of birth, PINs, passwords and more from the internet, data breaches and even purse snatchers. If you are a victim of identity theft, you may find that lenders and credit reporting agencies are slow to act. An experienced identity theft attorney like those at Blankingship & Christiano, P.C. could work to establish exactly what happened so that you can get the fair compensation you deserve. This may include contacting the lender or credit agency with an identity theft affidavit and seeking legal action against those responsible for your losses.
Reporting Identity Theft
In addition to filing an identity theft report with the FTC and local police, victims should also file a dispute with their credit bureau. This will help them regain control over their credit reports, accounts and scores. The main signs of identity theft include unexplained charges on bank and credit card statements, new cards that you did not apply for, inaccurate information on your credit report or collection notices for accounts you did not open. It is also important to keep track of changes to your personal information, such as a new address or phone number. In an era of frequent data breaches, monitoring your credit reports regularly and accounts for suspicious activity is important. Keeping financial records and Social Security and Medicare cards safe is also good. It would help if you also considered signing up for an identity theft protection service, which can offer other benefits. Some services are free, while others cost a monthly fee.
The more personal information you have online, the greater your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. The most common forms of information thieves use to steal your identity include your name, home address, credit card or bank account number and Social Security number. The best way to prevent ID theft is by being careful and following some simple steps. For example, never share your Social Security number with anyone and shred documents containing this information before throwing them away. Make sure you monitor your credit report. Detecting unfamiliar new accounts, charges or errors on your credit report early is an effective strategy to avoid the worst damage from ID theft. It would help if you also considered placing a fraud alert with all credit reporting agencies. This will require any business that checks your credit to verify your identity before opening an account, making it more difficult for fraudsters to open accounts in your name. You can request a fraud alert by calling the credit bureaus or through their websites.