So, you want to buy a car. You are at the car dealership and you have test driven, negotiated and finally come to an agreement on the price of your dream vehicle. You know you will drive home in this vehicle because you have always paid your bills on time and you can certainly afford this car. Then the call comes; the finance manager can’t find you financing. Why not? The response: Your credit is below their lending guidelines, and you have numerous delinquencies on your credit report. You know there is a mistake and vehemently deny these late payments. You hang up the phone, and the reality of the situation hits you. You realize you are a victim of identity theft! What do you do now?
Here are just a few simple no-cost ways to limit your exposure to the possibility of identity theft:
• Don’t put your checks and bills in your mailbox and put up the red flag.
• Instead of throwing them away, shred all documents that contain personal and financial information. Angle shredders are the best, but any shredder is better than none.
• Tell your credit card companies not to share your information with other companies. This is your right. Sit down and make a list and then contact each of them.
• Tell your credit card company to stop sending you convenience checks. This is a HUGE issue and is an extremely easy way for someone to gain access to your accounts.
• Put the words “photo id” along with your signature on the back of your credit cards so that cashiers ask for photo id before processing a sale.
• Make a copy of each item in your wallet and store in a safe. Write down the customer service telephone numbers for each of your credit cards. If your wallet is stolen, you’ll know which companies to call first to protect or lock down your accounts.
• Monitor your credit by using an identity theft protection company.
• Before selling or donating a used computer, reformat the hard drive.
• Set up auto deduct or use bill pay to pay your bills online versus hand writing a check.
• If you’re asked for sensitive information while on the phone or computer, ask why they need the information. If you are still unsure, ask for a phone number and call back so in order to verify they are who they say they are.
• Don’t leave your “identity” lying around the house.
• Read privacy disclosures before you sign or click to accept. Know if your information can be shared with other companies.
By federal law, you have the right to one free credit report each year. This gives you the ability to monitor your credit and see if any fraudulent activity has occurred. If you subscribe to a credit monitoring system like Lifelock, they will provide you with a copy from each of the 3 bureaus on a yearly basis. When you get them, REALLY look at them to make sure the information is accurate.
Written by Joanna Murphy