Detecting Identity Theft

Identity theft is usually committed for financial gain, but for the victim, the results can go beyond lost money.  It can have a lasting impact on your credit score, tarnish your good name, and be time consuming to clean up.  There are things that you can do to spot identify fraud and possibly save yourself some frustration in the future.

First, sign up for an identity theft monitoring service.  These monitor your credit report and alert you to new accounts and other certain changes.  You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus each year, but your report should be monitored with more frequency.  Having a monitoring service that checks your credit from all three credit bureaus at least monthly can be an effective way to identify credit fraud.  They should also monitor the internet and public records for changes or to find out if your information is being traded illegally online.  Many of these services also allow you to check your credit report as often as you like.  You should look for accounts that you don’t recognize, inquiries from companies that you don’t know, and make sure that all of the basic information is accurate.

If you have been a victim of a data breach or have other reason to suspect that you are at heightened risk you can place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit report.  This requires creditors to contact you to verify your identity before issuing credit.

While your credit report is being monitored for new accounts, you need to monitor your existing accounts to help identify credit card fraud.  Take advantage of credit card company services to check your account activity as often as you can.  Dispute any suspicious charges immediately and request a new card.  The longer it takes you to discover and dispute charges, the more difficult it can be to get them removed.  Many companies help you identify credit card fraud by allowing you to set up alerts that will notify you if your card number is used in an unusual location or if a transaction is over a certain amount.

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