How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

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How to protect your things

Identity theft is a serious crime that affects millions of people every year. It’s also a growing problem.

In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, there were nearly 9 million victims of identity theft in 2016 alone.

If you’re worried about someone using your personal information to commit fraud, then you should take steps to protect yourself. Here are some ways to keep your identity safe.

What to do if your identity is stolen

If you’re the victim of identity theft, there are essential steps you need to take to help stop an identity thief from continuing to commit fraud in your name, according to the FTC. Act fast.

Contact the companies and banks where you know identity fraud occurred.

Call the fraud department at the companies and financial institutions where you know the identity thief used your personal information. Part of this step may include closing or freezing your accounts that have been compromised.

Contact the credit reporting agencies and place fraud alerts.

You will need to contact at least one of the three major CRAs: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. The agency you get is required to contact the other two and share information. But you may want to reach out to each CRA individually to be sure they are on alert as soon as possible that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. The CRAs collect information about you and how you use credit, as well as whether any business has turned your debt over to a collections agency or you’ve filed for bankruptcy.

You’ll want to request a fraud alert, which will last one year. Once a fraud alert has been placed, a business must verify your ID before issuing credit to the person requesting it.  This will make it more challenging for someone to open new accounts using your identifying information. You can apply for a fraud alert in all the ways listed below (phone, online, and mail. If you’ve become a victim of identity theft, you also can request an extended fraud alert that lasts for seven years.

Alert you’re concerned about fraudulent activity on your card, call the number printed on the back of your card and report it immediately. So that when someone tries to open an account in your name, it’s said to all three CRAs. You can also ask them to freeze your accounts until further notice.

Notify affected creditors or banks

Your first order of business should be contacting your creditor or bank as soon as possible.

Most credit cards have zero-liability policies and other protections for cardholders affected by identity theft. But in the case of credit card fraud, you are also protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which specifies that the maximum liability for unauthorized charges is just $50.

On the other hand, ATM or debit cards and electronic transfers from your bank account fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. Under the terms of this law, consumers must act fast.

Reporting a lost or stolen ATM or debit card before any fraudulent transactions will let you off the hook for any changes made after that. Otherwise, you have a short window of two business days after learning about the loss to report unauthorized charges or transfers at a maximum loss of $50. The liability limit increases to $500 if you report between two and 60 days after the statement reflecting the fraud is mailed. Reporting after 60 days can leave you with unlimited liability.

Regardless of the type of account you believe is compromised or the liability that comes with it, it’s in your best interest to report suspicious activity as soon as possible.

Change your passwords regularly. Make sure you don’t reuse them across multiple accounts.

Use different email addresses for each account. This way, if one gets hacked, you won’t lose access to all of your funds.

Steps to follow after a theft:

Once you’ve filed an identity theft report and a police report, you should share them with your creditor as well.

Your lender might require additional documentation, such as proof of insurance or tax returns.

Monitor your statements closely

If you suspect something fishy going down, check your monthly bills carefully. Look for unusual purchases, missing items, or anything else that doesn’t seem right. It could mean that thieves are trying to get their hands on your info.

Keep track of your spending habits.

Keep careful records of every purchase you make. Please note where you bought things, what time you purchased them, who was present during the transaction, etc. These details can help identify potential suspects.

Don’t give up hope

Identity theft isn’t always easy to spot. Thieves often try to cover their tracks by making minor changes to their financial documents. They may even change your address without telling you. So don’t assume that no crime took place because there aren’t obvious signs of identity theft.

These are some of the ways to stay away from theft!

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