Preventing Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud: How to Protect your Credit Information
According to a recent poll by Experian, one in five Americans has reported they have experienced some form of identity theft. If it happens to you, and your identity is stolen, you might be in for a lengthy hassle that could cost you your credit rating and leave a permanent blight on your financial records.
How Credit Card Theft Starts
Spotting Signs of Identity Theft
* If youíve frequently been missing your credit card bill, or your mail keeps getting ďlostĒ contact the post office immediately. If you live in an apartment complex , find out from your superintendent or manager if you can change your mailbox key. A missing bill could mean that an identity theft has occurred and the billing address has been changed.
* If youíre suddenly getting credit cards (not just a credit card offer) from companies that you didnít apply. Call these companies and find out if you are the account holder; if not verbally cancel the account and follow up with a written letter.
* If youíre being denied credit, or your credit card terms are suddenly being changed to higher interest terms, for no obvious reason.
* Youíre suddenly getting phone calls and letters from creditors about purchases you did not make.
How to Protect Your Credit Information
The best protection is constant awareness of the use of your credit information. Credit monitoring services such as Citiģ Credit Monitoring Service, provide these services for a fee, which may be well worth it. Choose your passwords carefully. Avoid using any easily available information, such as your motherís maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SS#, or your phone number. If you must use this type of identifier in opening an account, request a password change immediately after opening the account before it slips your mind. Secure your credit information at all times, even around your house--if youíre having work done on your home, or if youíre having a big party, or your roommate brings home guests. Donít give out any information unless you know exactly how it will be used and by whom.
The Best Defense for Your Credit Security:
Stay vigilant. Review your credit card statements every month, and question any suspected purchases by contacting your credit card issuer directly. If you suspect an unauthorized purchase, send a letter to your credit card issuer detailing the item in question and any reference numbers. The credit card issuer is required to investigate your claim and report back to you, in writing, of their findings. You can also request a free annual monitoring report from each of the major consumer reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. A recent amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that these credit reporting companies provide these reports to you at your request, every 12 months.
Itís your credit. Protect it!