Identity theft is running rampant as we spend more time online. The steps you need to take to stop schemers from using your personal information.
SAN ANTONIO — Identity theft hits you where it hurts most, in the pocketbook. Your money and personal information gone, stolen by schemers.
“It’s just such a monumental problem,” said Michael Skiba known as Dr. Fraud.
Identity theft comes at a real and pricey cost for consumers. The average cost to a victim is about $1,300.
“The most important thing if your identity is stolen is to act very quickly, as quickly as possible, because the scammers know they have a very small window to actually penetrate your accounts and do damage,” Skiba said.
“What you’re doing is you’re preventing any new credit being opened in your name,” said Nathan Grant, a senior credit industry analyst with CreditCardInsider.com. “So if it’s not you, you obviously know that somebody is trying to access your credit report.”
A credit freeze with the three credit bureaus-Experian, Transunion and Equifax–is free and does not affect your credit score. (You will need to thaw your credit each time you open a new line of credit including credit cards, loans or a mortgage.) Also add a fraud alert to your credit report.
“What that does it is makes it so any time somebody is trying to access new credit you basically get a phone call,” Grant said.
Then monitor your credit reports and dispute any fraudulent accounts with the credit bureaus so they can be removed from your credit history. Contact any place you have credit including credit cards, banks and even utility companies. Let them know you are an identity theft victim. It can be time consuming but worth it.
“If you just let them know they’re going to kind of put you in a different bucket, like a higher risk bucket,” Skiba said. “So even if there is just a little anomaly in your account, something they detect that’s outside of your normal spending footprint, they’re going to be able to react very, very quickly.”
A fraud alert means you will be notified immediately with any unusual activity. Also, change all your passwords and use two factor authentication.
“Make it more difficult for somebody to steal your assets or hijack your accounts,” said J.J. Montenaro, a financial planner with USAA.
Plus, report identity theft to local police and IdentityTheft.gov. IdentityTheft.gov will also give you more detailed steps to take depending on your identity theft situation. Reporting identity theft gives you the documentation some businesses might require to fix your accounts.
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