Your best self-defense against identity theft is your credit report
Identity theft is easier to pull off than we think. Most people are under the impression that the only people that get affected by identity theft are the uninformed, naïve or trusting individuals that become a victim of identity theft. In reality, that couldn’t be further than the truth.
It has been estimated that identity theft costs the economy approximately 1 billion per year and growing. There are new scams and identity theft techniques appearing almost on a weekly basis. As technology and our use thereof changes, the opportunities for thieves to get hold of personal information is on the rise and we all need to become increasingly vigilant, particularly as we transact more and more online.
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In the past identity thieves were more interested in stealing credit card information or the cards themselves, maxing the credit card limits and then throwing the credit card/s away. Today's identity thieves are using stolen information buy cars, cell phones get in-store credit and in some cases personal or home loans. The end result of this is that the victim often does not realize that their identity has been compromised until they are refused the opening of new accounts or receive calls asking why they are defaulting on payments. Restoring the victim's credit record could take years to rectify.
Credit report defence
A persons credit report is a record of their financial history, the report details information on the borrowing and spending habits of the individual. The credit report tracks every account that is opened and any skipped payments. If any judgement has been taken against you and the amount of money still owed to creditors.
Regular checking of your credit ratings report will allow you to examine it and see if anyone has attempted to apply for credit in your name. coupled with this is you can see who has accessed the credit report and when.
Check the report in detail
After you have received your credit report, go through it thoroughly to verify the information provided. Within the report, you will find every creditor that notified to the credit bureau that you have or had credit with them. The information will show the name of the creditor, the date when the account was initially opened, the frequency of payments, how much is still outstanding as well as the credit limit and whether or not there have been any skipped or missed payments.
Also included in the report will be a list of all the inquiries that have been made against your name, letting you check who has looked at your credit report. It is of the highest importance that you find no inquiries that you were/are unaware of as this could be a solid indication that someone is trying to apply for credit in your name.
The public records section is also an important one to look at. The information contained here details any judgments, defaults, and notices and you will be able to see if any legal action has been taken against you for any non-payments on your accounts.
Report it immediately
If after examining your credit report you see entries that lead you to believe you have been a victim of identity theft, immediately contact the credit bureau that supplied you the information and lodge a dispute with them.
Most credit bureaus allow you to do this online by filling out a form. Once you have lodged the dispute with the credit bureau, they have 20 business days to investigate the dispute.
Don’t be a victim
Your credit report can be a very effective tool in the prevention of identity theft. To ensure that you do not become a victim, make sure to regularly check your credit report. Many credit bureaus offer a free report once a year, so take full advantage of this facility. With regular checks on your credit report, you can not only protect your credit history but also help prevent becoming the identity thieves next victim