Combating Identity Theft
Every year, millions of people become victims of identity theft. Identity theft can be considered anything from a complete stranger hacking into your accounts or opening credit cards in your name, to the unfortunate circumstance of a friend or family member using your information for their own personal gain. Either way, the results can be dreadful – ranging from personal bankruptcy to outrageous credit card debt settlement needs.
Unfortunately, no matter what you do to protect yourself, you may still become a victim. Data breaches are constantly making the news as numerous financial institutions and retail stores are being hacked into. We, as consumers, cannot prevent a rogue employee from stealing company information and selling it to others for profit.
Here are ways to minimize the risk of identity theft.
- Keep your Social Security number protected. Your Social Security number should not be given out over the phone or internet to any business or person with whom you do not have an existing relationship.
- Beware of “phishing” emails from what appears to be a bank advising you that they need to “update your information.” It will look very official and may even have an “official” logo. Your bank will not request that you turn over this sensitive information over the internet by emailing you a request or sending you an automated phone call asking you for it. Your bank already has your information and will not ask you to put yourself at risk by asking for it in these ways.
- Use cash where possible for smaller purchases. Sure, it is more convenient to make all your purchases on one card. But the risk of numbers on that card being scanned and used by someone else is greater than the short-term convenience of carrying cash.
Has your identity been stolen? Ask about SmithMarco, P.C.‘s Identity Theft Kit, which is a step-by-step guide with all the resources and documents needed in order to best reconcile a case of stolen identity.
What To Do If Your Identity Has Been Stolen
If you find out that you are a victim of identity theft, here are some steps you should take.
- Report it to the police. The police are besieged with many similar complaints, but a police report can be of supreme importance in restoring your name. A local police station may be reluctant to assist you, but we urge you to be persistent. Explain that you need to file the report and will not pressure the police to search for and arrest the thief.
- Contact each of the three major credit-reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Notify each that you want a “fraud alert” placed on your credit file. Then order a copy of your credit report.
- Contact companies that have opened accounts in your name that you know you did not apply for. You must advise them that the account was opened fraudulently. That company will most likely want you to sign an affidavit. Do so, and agree to cooperate with them in any manner you can.
We are experienced credit repair attorneys in the Chicago area and Sarasota, Florida, and we can advise on other ways of self-protection that are appropriate for your day-to-day financial transactions.
What To Look For On Your Credit Report
Monitor your credit report regularly for anomalies such as the following:
- Accounts that you are certain were not opened by you
- Recent inquiries (access to your report) from companies you never contacted for credit
- Addresses reported as yours where you never resided.
Immediately send a written dispute back to the credit reporting agency, notifying them of the wrong information, enclosing the police report and emphasizing that the information is likely fraudulent.
Request A No-Obligation Case Evaluation
If you believe you are a potential victim of identity theft, we can help. Ask about our Identity Theft Kit or contact us.