If you’ve ever dealt with someone that you know uses fake names, is guilty of fraud, or is generally shady, you should probably take steps to make sure that you’re not being targeted for identity theft.
Even if you think you’d be a poor target, have a low credit score, or don’t think there’s any way they could get your information, you should still check to make sure. Identity theft can affect your life in devastating ways, not just now, but for the rest of your life. Better safe now than sorry later.
CONTACT THE TOP THREE CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES.
|Report fraud||Order credit report||Web site|
|Equifax||(800) 525-6285||(800) 685-1111||http://www.equifax.com/|
|Experian||(888) EXPERIAN (397-3742)||(888) EXPERIAN (397-3742)||http://www.experian.com/|
|Trans Union||(800) 680-7289||(800) 916-8800||http://www.tuc.com/|
They can tell you if anybody has accessed your credit rating, AND they can also flag your information with a fraud alert so that if anybody tries to access your credit rating through them, they can let you know about it. No request for credit approval will be processed without contacting to get approval from you. That’s a very handy tool to have. You don’t need to pay some service to watchdog your identity for you. These credit reporting services will do it for you if you ask them to.
There are several things to remember when it comes to identity theft.
First, identity theft is a federal offense. If anybody out there is using your personal information, it is identity theft, whether they use your name on a loan or not. The fact that they’re using ANY of your information constitutes a federal offense.
In fact, if they even TRY to use your personal information, the authorities need to be alerted so that the perpetrator can be investigated and held legally accountable for it.
If you know that your credit rating is low, please don’t let that be a reason that you don’t check. “Eh. They won’t get it anyway.” You never know. There are a lot of different ways that somebody could use your personal information to benefit themselves.
There are different kinds of loans. Bank loans work pretty much as you’d suspect. They run your credit check, weigh your income-to-debt ration and determine if you qualify for the loan. If your score is low, it’s not approved. But, like I said, there’s more than one way to take out a loan.
Buy here, pay here places. Self-financing auto lots, for examples, do run loans through a bank as described above. They do their financing in-house, using the car as collateral. If the customer doesn’t pay, they go get the car. Unless the person who bought the car used false information to buy it and provided a fake address. Then, if they sell the car to a chop shop for cash, there’s nothing that leads back to the identity thief. But there is a trail straight back to you. To your credit report, anyway.
Same thing with payday loans. They don’t work the same way as bank loans. They’re basically signature loans, with your future paychecks as collateral. Because it’s your information they used to sign up for it. Somebody can use your information to get a payday loan and skip out on the payments. They’ve gotten hundreds (thousands?) of dollars with your name, your #SSN, etc, and you’re stuck with the payments and the repercussions to your credit score.
And if the payments are low enough, you might even be paying off somebody else’s fraudulent loan and not even notice it. Think about that. Somebody out there can have a loan out under your identity, and you could be paying it off. Ten bucks here and there. Who’d notice? Seriously, who pays such close attention to their banking activity. In this age of auto-pay and online banking, who’d notice such a small amount?
If you find any suspicious activity in relation to your credit rating, FILE A POLICE REPORT. Start with the police in your area. Then, if you know where the person is that did it (which you should be able to find out from the credit agencies above), call their authorities as well. Call the cops in their area. Call their District Attorney. Call their Attorney General. If they’re in Texas, call the Texas Rangers, too.
GET COPIES OF ALL THE POLICE REPORTS. You might need them for court. You might also need them to resolve issues with any businesses they rang up debt under. That leads me to my next suggestion.
The credit reporting agencies will be able to give you the names of any business where your identity thief created debt with your name and/or information. If they bought a car, you’ll get the name of the car lot. If they took out a payday loan, you’ll get their name, location and number, too. CONTACT ALL OF THE PLACES WHERE YOUR INFORMATION WAS USED. Tell them that you’re the victim of identity theft and let them know that you did not incur the debt. Tell them that the thief and the transaction are under investigation by the authorities. And tell them that they will be kept informed of the status of the case.
GO TO YOUR POST OFFICE. Find out if your identity thief put in a change of address under your name so that the bills they’re ringing up go somewhere else. That way, you never know about them.
If a change of address has been filed by anybody other than you, that’s a crime, too. Fiddling with the post office is a federal offense, too. Change the address back so that any mail with your name comes only to you.
CONTACT YOUR CREDIT CARD COMPANIES. Find out if there have been any charges you don’t know about. Also, find out if somebody out there has put in a change of address with your credit card company to keep you from getting bills for any suspicious purchases or cash advances on those, too. If there’s ANYTHING awry, close that account and create another one. With the new one, demand password-only access to the new account. That should help.
It’s also possible for somebody to use your information to apply for a job. Just to make sure that nobody’s running up IRS debt under your name. There was a Louisiana trucker that happened to. He gave a guy a ride at a truck stop, and the guy stole his name and #SSN. Worked across the country, earning paychecks and skipping out on paying taxes. By the time the Cajun found out about it, the IRS was demanding that he pay tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes. What a nightmare!
So do everything it takes to protect yourself.
I don’t have any reason to think that I’ve been a victim of identity theft, but you better believe I’m getting on the phone today to find out if anybody has even tried it. You should, too.