We’ve all heard about it, but not everyone understands how to prevent it, or what to do if you think your identity has been stolen. Get the facts on this widespread problem from the loan specialists at VA Mortgage site. Identity theft has always been a problem, but in the Internet Age it has become an epidemic. The number of ways to steal someone’s identity is limited only by a thief’s imagination, and methods can be as sophisticated as computer hacking or as “old-fashioned” as stealing someone’s wallet or going through their trash. Once they have your identity, thieves can swiftly run up bills in the tens of thousands of dollars while they cause serious harm to your finances and credit rating.
The best protection against identity theft is personal vigilance. Don’t carry your social security card, never share your personal information with anyone you don’t know, shred all sensitive financial documents, and carefully review your bank and credit card statements for any suspicious activity.
Other indications of identity theft include:
- Failing to receive bills that you expect every month.
- Receiving credit cards for which you didn’t apply.
- Denial of credit for no apparent reason,
- And, receiving calls from debt collectors about merchandise or services you didn’t buy. If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, take the following steps immediately:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
- Close the accounts that you believe have been compromised.
- File a report with the police.
- Contact your bank and all of your creditors to alert them of your situation, and follow up with them in writing. It’s critical that you act as soon as you suspect a problem, to minimize the damage to yourself and your credit.
What Is the Impact of Identify Theft on Your Credit Score?
Identity thieves sometimes prefer to steal your reputation rather than your money because they could use your credit to open accounts under your name, max out your credit, then disappear, leaving you to deal with the consequences. The effects of identity theft to your credit score can sometimes take months to rectify. Other consequences could include being denied new credit or having a rental application rejected if a landlord sees your compromised credit report. Regularly checking your credit report can help you flag any potential identity theft early on and help to reduce negative impacts on you and your credit.