Recover from Identity Theft

Edited by Anonymous

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Finding out that you have just lost your identity to a cunning thief is an alarming and a depressing dilemma.

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Identity thieves endlessly modify their methods as technology continues to move forward. Many consumers end up paying for things they never bought and suffering because of crimes they didn't commit. They lose their financial and personal credibility just because someone had the guts to take and use their personal and financial information. Identity theft can happen to anyone. It doesn't even shy away from children or the elderly. Identity thieves are heartless. They will do absolutely anything to rob from you. They can even shatter your financial future in just a snap. If you are victimized by identity thieves, recovery is necessary. You have to know the crucial steps to recover from identity fraud. If this fast-growing crime happens to you, it is not too late. Just be alert and know the process of getting back on your feet. Eventually, you will be healed of the scars left by identity theft.

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How Identity Fraud Happens

Humans are social creatures.

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By nature, people are compelled to share information with one another, whether it's online or offline. This inherent quality exposes consumers to the predators of society. These individuals or groups dedicate their lives to finding out your personal and financial information just because they know they can. Once they get their hands on what you can offer, they take everything you have worked so hard to achieve. This sets you back years of hard work, savings, and investments.

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How can identity fraud happen? This white-collar crime can happen at any given time, in whatever activity you engage in. All you have to do is call home, write a check, rent a car, use your credit card, mail tax returns, apply for a new credit, or order a new checkbook and you can lose your identity. Identity fraudsters pay attention to whatever you do. They wait until you divulge the valuable information they need. They make use of old-fashioned techniques and high-technology methods to get what they want. Consumers like you are just left to pick up the pieces if you're not careful enough.

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How Identity Fraudsters Steal Your Identity

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It is a common misconception that identity theft takes place only online. In fact, most identity theft does not take place online, but instead, occurs offline and is accomplished by friends and/or family members. In the cases where it is accomplished by a stranger, typically it happens because mail is stolen from a mailbox which has some pre-approved credit offers in the mail. One of the best ways to prevent identity theft according to the United States authorities is to invest in a locking mailbox. Identity thieves know what they're doing, especially if stealing information is their bread and butter. They can effectively get a hold of your information through the following ways:

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  1. 1
    Hacking your personal email and social networking accounts.
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  2. 2
    Stealing your purse or wallet with your personal identification and credit cards.
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  3. 3
    Stealing your mail.
    (This contains pre-approved credit, bank statements, tax details, and credit card statements.)
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  4. 4
    Diverting your mail to the location they want by changing your mailing address.
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  5. 5
    Dumpster diving.
    (Rummaging through your trash bins to get your personal information.)
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  6. 6
    Posing as people who can get your information.
    (They can pretend to be an employer or a landlord.)
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  7. 7
    Stealing personnel and business records from your workplace.
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  8. 8
    Getting personal information from your own home.
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  9. 9
    Acquiring the personal information that you post or share via the Internet.
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  10. 10
    Paying store clerks or waiters to obtain your personal information.
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How Identity Fraudsters Use Your Identity

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When identity thieves have already obtained your data, all they have to do is use it. Of course, they are the only ones who will benefit from this. These white-collar thieves do not waste time. They immediately work on your information and use it in the following ways:

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  1. 1
    Changing your credit card information with your credit card company by pretending to be you.
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  2. 2
    Charging purchases on your credit card account.
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  3. 3
    Opening a new credit card account in your name using your data.
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  4. 4
    Establishing a cable service, phone service, and basic utility services in your name.
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  5. 5
    Purchasing cars in your name.
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  6. 6
    Opening new bank accounts using your information.
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The Usual Victims of Identity Fraud

The usual targets of identity thieves are, of course, those people who enjoy leisure time with their money.

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Affluent consumers in the suburbs are hunted down by identity thieves. They also take note of individuals who have earned their advanced academic degrees and those who are most likely to get married. Common victims usually engage in skiing, traveling to foreign countries, arts, cultures, politics, and tennis. Since these people are prominent, identity thieves can easily monitor them, taking note of their lifestyles and their residences. The thieves take the opportunity to steal from these people's trash to get their used documents. The housekeepers are also hired by identity thieves to steal personal information.

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Identity fraudsters also often target those who have luxury or brand new vehicles. They keep an eye on people who live in areas mostly occupied by homeowners and only a few renters. Borrowers who live in highly populated areas (condominiums and homes with several families in them) are also victimized. Because lenders are also on the lookout for these types of people, identity thieves get their way with stolen identities very easily. Lenders want clients who can pay. If an identity thief steals the identity of an affluent person, then the thief can quickly be approved for any application. Lately, identity thieves are targeting consumers ages 18-24 years old. These people are very oriented in the digital world. They access their online accounts all the time and unknowingly form the habit of sharing valuable information through the Internet. Individuals in this age range also tend to be careless with their data because they tend to shift from one school or job to the next. Because of this, it takes them a lot longer to realize that they have already been victimized by identity thieves.

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Identity thieves also target infants to teenagers. The information is obtained and sold to unregistered aliens so that these people can have a life in the US. They use the information for work and for credit applications. The children don't know about it until it is time for them to apply for credit or an educational loan. By then, the damage is already too big to correct. The elderly people are also attacked by identity thieves. Their caregivers or close loved ones take advantage of them with regard to their finances. The elderly victims do not report the fraud because they fear being placed in a mental institution or a nursing home.

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How to Recover From Identity Theft

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If you have just realized that your identity has been stolen, don't sulk in a corner and regret every major decision that you have made in your life. Instead, get a move on and bounce back. Here are the steps that you have to follow in recovering from identity fraud:

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  1. 1
    File an affidavit or a police report.
    This report should state that you have every reason to believe that you have been victimized by an identity thief. Obtain official copies of the documents that you have. You may use them when you clear up your credit score issues.
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  2. 2
    Request copies of your credit reports from the three major credit companies in the country — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
    You should do this the moment you find out that you might already be an identity fraud victim.
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  3. 3
    Pinpoint the fraudulent information in your credit reports.
    You need to do this to confirm the identity theft.
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  4. 4
    File the corrections that you have identified.
    You should contact the credit reporting agencies and file your identified false information for every credit report.
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  5. 5
    Follow everything up.
    Make sure that you record everything that you have discussed with the credit reporting agency. It is mandated by law that all frivolous issues should be investigated by these agencies within a month or 30 days.
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  6. 6
    Write a letter of notification to the three credit bureaus.
    Your letter should contain your request for a fraud alert to be activated in your account.
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  7. 7
    Ask for a credit freeze.
    Credit freezing will prevent unauthorized use of and access to data indicated in your credit report. This will last for three months or 90 days. An extended credit freeze lasts seven years. This will mandate new creditors to ask permission from you first before they can access your account for identification purposes.
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  8. 8
    Get in touch with the Federal Trade Commission.
    Request for all the false accounts in your name to be closed at the soonest possible time. This will reduce the damage on your credit report.
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  9. 9
    Contact the bank that issued your credit card.
    Make sure that you contact the credit card company involved. Discuss your situation and your desire to close your account immediately. Present the proper documents for this and they will be able to repair the damage in your credit report and credit score.
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  10. 10
    Notify the debt and bill collecting companies about your present situation.
    Doing so will help prevent your credit score from getting worse. It will also keep these companies from sending threats to make you pay.
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Main Agencies That Can Help with Identity Fraud

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  1. 1
    FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
    You can reach them online (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/), through their toll-free hotlines (1-877-ID THEFT: 877-438-4338) or TDD at (866) 653-4261, or through snail mail: Consumer Response Center, FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.
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  2. 2
    FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).
    You can go to their site (http://www.fbi.gov/contact/fo/fo.htm) to report identity fraud.
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  3. 3
    US Secret Service.
    Click on http://www.secretservice.gov to get in touch with them and report identity theft.
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Other Agencies That Can Help With Identity Theft

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  1. 1
    Postal Inspection Service.
    Click on U.S. Department of Justice or ID Theft. They can help you with the change of address that the identity thief made to transfer your mail somewhere else. This agency can also help if the identity thief used your mail or address for fraud.
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  2. 2
    SSA (Social Security Agency).
    Reach them through (800)269-0271 or http://www.ssa.gov/. They can help you if the ID theft is unlawfully using your SS number.
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  3. 3
    IRS (Internal Revenue Service).
    If the ID fraud involves the unlawful use of your identity for violations involving taxation, reach this agency by clicking http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,ID=186436,00.html or by dialing (800) 829-0433.
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  4. 4
    Equifax Fraud Department.
    Click http://www.justice.gov/cgi-bin/outside.cgi?http://www.equifax.com , dial (800) 525-6285 or write a letter to P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374-0250.
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  5. 5
    Experian Fraud Department.
    Click http://www.justice.gov/cgi-bin/outside.cgi?http://www.experian.com, dial (888) 397-3742 , fax to (800) 301-7196, or write to P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013.
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  6. 6
    TransUnion Fraud Department.
    Click http://www.justice.gov/cgi-bin/outside.cgi?http://www.tuc.com, dial (800) 680-7289 or write to P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634.
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  7. 7
    The creditors.
    You should get in touch with any creditor that has your personal information and let them know about what happened. This is to avoid having wrong, unlawful charges on your credit card bill.
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  8. 8
    The banks.
    Also contact the financial institutions that have your accounts. If you need to cancel your accounts with them, do so.
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  9. 9
    Companies that verify checks.
    Reach them through https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17a.htm if you have stolen checkbooks or if there are new accounts opened by the identity thief.
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Reducing the Risk of Identity Fraud

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Below are some of the ways you could minimize the risk of becoming an identity fraud victim:

  1. 1
    Make sure to sign your credit cards.
    Do this the moment you receive them.
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  2. 2
    Do not carry every form of information with you.
    As much as possible, do not bring all your credit cards with you when you go out. Leave your Social Security Card and Medicare card in a safe place at home.
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  3. 3
    Do not write your SS number or any PINs on pieces of paper or tissue paper.
    Dumpster divers love this.
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  4. 4
    Use a paper shredder.
    Shred documents that have your personal and financial information. This includes receipts and billing statements.
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  5. 5
    Never divulge your personal or financial information through the phone or through email.
    You should be the one to call the credible company and provide information after they let you know why they need it. No credible company asks for your information.
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  6. 6
    Request for your annual credit report.
    This is a good way of monitoring your credit score and correcting erroneous data in the reports.
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  7. 7
    Do not store financial or personal information in your electronic devices.
    If you have to, make use of a difficult password. Always log off from your online accounts when you're done.
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  8. 8
    Make use of a browser that's secure.
    This type of browser encrypts your data as it travels via the Internet.
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  9. 9
    Delete every bit of personal information before getting rid of a computer.
    A software that could wipe out everything in your computer should be used so the data cannot be retrieved anymore.
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Identity fraud is scary. You should learn how to take good care of your information so that you can have a secure financial future and an intact financial credibility.

Tips

  • Never give your personal information, passwords, or PINs to anyone, even your family members.
  • Have a document safe in your house to contain important documents.
  • Be tidy with your documents around the house. Never leave them lying around.
  • Educate your children about not sharing too much information online.
  • Screen the caregivers well before hiring them to care for your elderly loved ones.
  • If you have problems with any of these steps, ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.

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