When identity theft happens
LSS Consumer Credit Counseling Service offers tips to survive
July 15. 2013 7:58AM
If your identity is stolen, what will you do? Do you know your rights? Knowing what to do is important because an identity thief can hijack your tax refund, alter your medical records, prevent you from getting credit or a job, and even borrow money in your name.
Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It is a serious crime that can disrupt your finances, credit history, and reputation; and it takes time, money, and patience to resolve. Identity protection is a 21st century practice that can become habit. It requires thinking about your personal information as a valuable commodity and treating it with care. While there is no foolproof way to avoid identity theft, there are ways to minimize the chances of becoming a victim and minimize the damage should a theft occur.
“Knowing how to protect your personal information and reduce the risk of identity theft are critical skills these days,” said Marley Prunty-Lara, Community Relations Coordinator for Lutheran Social Services Consumer Credit Counseling Service. “We want to help everyone learn how to safeguard their information, spot potential signs of trouble early, and minimize the damage identity theft can cause.”
With the recent spike in identity theft cases in the Sioux Falls area, Prunty-Lara offers the following tips to help South Dakotans protect their finances:
1.) Be alert to signs that require immediate attention:
• Mail or bills that do not arrive as expected.
• Unexpected credit cards or account statements.
• Denials of credit for no apparent reason.
• Calls or letters about purchases you did not make.
• Your credit report. Credit reports have information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history.
• Your financial statements. Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not make.
3.) Order your credit report:
• The law requires the major nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to give you a free copy of your credit report each year if you ask for it. Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228, to order your free credit reports each year.
If you suspect you may have been a victim and your financial identity has been compromised, act promptly:
1.) Flag Your Credit Reports
Call one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, and ask for a fraud alert on your credit report. The company you call must contact the other two so they can put fraud alerts on your files. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days.
Equifax 1 800 525 6285
Experian 1 888 397 3742
TransUnion 1 800 680 7289
2.) Order Your Credit Reports
Each company’s credit report about you is slightly different, so order a report from each company. When you order, you must answer some questions to prove your identity. Read your reports carefully to see if the information is correct. If you see mistakes or signs of fraud, contact the credit reporting company.
3.) Create an Identity Theft Report
An Identity Theft Report can help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report, stop a company from collecting debts caused by identity theft, and get information about accounts a thief opened in your name. To create an Identity Theft Report:
1.0 File a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-438-4338; TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Your completed complaint is called an FTC Affidavit.
2.) Take your FTC Affidavit to your local police, or to the police where the theft occurred, and file a police report. Get a copy of the police report.
These two documents comprise an Identity Theft Report.
To find reliable help with financial concerns, reach out to Lutheran Social Services Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Call (888) 258-2227 to be connected with the office closest to you, or visit www.LssSD.org