YOU Magazine - September 2006 - Combat Identity Theft Before It Happens to You By Linda Ferrari President, Credit Resource Corp. Subscribe to YOU Magazine and other timely market alerts from Your Name Here .

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Combat Identity Theft Before It Happens to You
By Linda Ferrari
President, Credit Resource Corp.


Combat Identity Theft Before It Happens to You - By Linda Ferrari - President, Credit Resource Corp.

Ten years ago, the term "Identity Theft" sounded like the twisted plot of a strange "B" movie. Today it is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. Perpetrators range from individual thieves who successfully rip off bank account numbers and credit cards to full-blown, sophisticated operations that are responsible for pilfering hundreds of thousands of consumer files.

In this past year alone, we've seen 450,000 consumer files classified as "breached" by LexisNexis®, while Bank of America "lost track of" 1.2 million back-up files. Let's not forget about Citigroup and how they lost the records of 4 million customers. This is the same company that is currently marketing a credit card which they say is designed to prevent identity theft.

Recent estimates from the Federal Trade Commission claim that 27 million Americans have been victimized in the last five years, 10 million in the past year alone. What's even more shocking is an estimated 25% of those stolen identities belong to children. The numbers are growing so fast that the FTC now has a separate department to handle nothing but identity theft. Police departments throughout the country have begun establishing divisions which specifically address this problem. The reason for this response is two-fold. The advent of the computer age has made identity theft the easiest crime in the world to perpetrate on unsuspecting vicitims. But, more importantly, identity theft is a life-altering event for the victim, one which creates serious financial chaos for a long, long time.

What to do if you are a victim of identity theft:

If you are a victim of identity theft, make sure that you take the following actions:

  1. Immediately file a fraud alert with all three credit bureaus: Experian®, Equifax , and TransUnion®.
  2. File a police report.
  3. Call the FTC Identity Theft hotline at (877) 438-4338 or visit their web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
  4. Continually check your credit reports and immediately close any accounts that you do not recognize as being your own.

How to deter identity thieves:

Take these precautionary measures to make yourself a less likely target for identity theft.

  1. Purchase a cross-shredder and shred every document a person could use to steal your identity. Examples include credit card solicitations, bank solicitations, old bank statements, etc.
  2. NEVER give your credit card numbers, social security number, or other personal information to someone who calls you on the phone and requests this type of information.
  3. Never respond to an email that requests your credit card numbers or social security number.
  4. Check your credit reports regularly and make sure that the information contained within them is accurate.
  5. Check your bank statements every month and make sure they are correct.
  6. Sign up for a credit watch program.
  7. Find out if your state has instituted a Security Freeze law to protect people who consider themselves at risk for any reason. (This includes vulnerability for those filing for divorce!)

Watch for Warning Signs:

Here are a few red flags that could mean someone has stolen your identity.

  1. Denial of credit.
  2. An unexpected drop in your credit scores.
  3. Calls from collection agencies.
  4. Normal bills are showing up late or not appearing at all.

The most important thing to remember about identity theft is that it is a lot easier to prevent than it is to deal with it after it happens. Guard your personal information very carefully. The little effort it takes will be well worth it.

Linda Ferrari is the President of Credit Resource Corp. If you would like to obtain more information about identity theft and how you can protect yourself, you may contact her at info@creditresourcecorp.com.


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