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We all should realize that there is a growing problem of identity theft in the
US. If you have been a victim you know the time, money, embarrassment
and agony that occurs trying to restore your credit and financial
theft often occurs when your mail is stolen and credit card, bank,
Social Security Number and other personal data is used to make
unauthorized purchases in your good name. However it can also occur
when data is stolen from your computer or other electronic files.
this happens to you the burden is on you to prove yourself innocent,
and to do so takes time. Just restoring your credit rating can take
months and your ability to borrow or even conduct normal business
activities can be seriously curtailed.
abounds on various Web sites on the subject of identity theft, such as Understanding Identity Theft. Many vendors provide
help in reestablishing your credit if you are a victim. One of the
best places to start is with information
from the Federal Trade Commission. At this link you'll learn
how to prevent, report, and resolve identity theft.
You can obtain a FREE annual report
from the three major credit agencies. By taking the time to do this
you can see your credit rating with the three agencies and determine
if any information is incorrect. You can do it on line at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp.
You can also contact the individual agencies directly:
your Social Security Number to anyone unless it is a financial
institution or governmental agency that requires it. Merchants
do not require your Social Security Number, even if they ask for it.
- Never put
your outgoing mail in an unlocked box. Never use the red flag
on your own box--if you do use it for outgoing mail it's a flag
saying to thieves, "come and get it."
- Shred all
documents that contain your Social Security Number, bank, or credit card
numbers. Use a cross-cut shredder,
not a strip shredder.
- Check your
credit reports annually to make sure no transactions have occurred
that you did not authorize. You can check them for free at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp.
Identity Theft Council
A brochure on Identity
Theft published by the Identity Theft Council is available here.