You might be shocked to receive a letter from a credit card company stating someone attempted to open a card on your behalf. Don’t be shocked, identity theft and credit fraud is on the rise, so prepare yourself and minimize the damage if this has already happened.
How do these identity thieves do it? They’ll go through trash looking for bank statements, pre-approved credit offers and even your tax information. Some identity fraud victims have reported that thieves acquired their information by completing change-of-address forms in their name. They use that information to open credit cards, buy cars or drain your bank accounts.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, begin protecting yourself with the following five important steps to minimizing the damage.
1. Lock you credit files – Once you lock your credit file companies will not be able to pull your credit report without your authorization.
2. Set up Fraud Alerts – Start with Equifax and they will immediately notify the other credit reporting agencies. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report tells lenders that they should take steps to verify your identity before authorizing new credit.
3. Monitor Your Credit – Make sure all three of your credit reports are accurate and the activity is familiar to you. Sometimes checking your credit report once a year is not enough. There are services that charge a small fee but send you alerts so you are made aware each time your report is pulled.
4. Protect Your Mail – Shred your receipts, bank statements, expired credit cards and pre-approved credit card offers. This may seem like common sense but remove your mail promptly after it is delivered. These tips will prevent an identity thief from accessing your personal information.
5. Guard Your Computer – Use caution when downloading email attachments. Don’t download from unknown senders, and contact your friend if something seems sketchy about a message. Subscribe to applications that protect your computer from malware and viruses and keep this anti-virus software up-to-date.