Yesterday I received a heartbreaking call from a close friend who also happens to receive my newsletter. I guess he took my advice, because he called and got his free credit reports. “I thought I didn’t have anything to worry about,” he shared with me, “I always pay my bills on time and I never throw anything out without shredding it first.”
We all like to think that we are in control of our lives. This is not always the case, as my friend so recently found out. A credit thief had run up $11,000 dollars of debt on just one card alone, not to mention the 12 other accounts that had been opened in my friend’s name. Sure enough, he soon began to receive calls from collection agencies about debt that he had never incurred.
While nobody likes to think that their reputation, their identity or even their credit score is at risk, it would be foolish to think that we aren’t all at risk, at all times. One benefit of being involved in your identity theft prevention program is that you are constantly checking to make sure that your identity only encompasses you. Just think- it doesn’t even have to be your own computer that a hacker breaks into- you may never know where or how it happened, and if you aren’t up on your identity theft protection, you might not realize what’s happened until it’s too late.
There are two main things that can ruin a person’s credit: identity theft and inaccurate credit reporting. Current studies show that 1 in 4 credit reports contain inaccurate, damaging data. 10,000,000 people will have their identities stolen this year. Either of these can result in having to pay higher insurance premiums or higher credit interest rates. Other possible effects can be difficulty in securing jobs and rentals, as well as the always embarrassing denial of credit.
Where do thieves get your info? Well, big targets are often databases that contain many people’s personal information. So, universities, private businesses, local, state and federal institutions all have these precious-as-gold databases. Once a thieve is in, it’s Christmas for them. They then proceed to sell your personal information to as many buyers as they can until somebody catches on. In cases where children’s identities are stolen, it can be years before anyone discovers what has happened.
Do not depend on others to keep your personal identity and credit safe and secure. Close your old accounts and order your credit reports so you know that there aren’t any in your name that you are not aware of.
Ultimately it is far easier to be proactive in protecting your credit and identity than to be reactive once you’ve “been stolen.” Here are a couple of resources to help you with identity theft protection:
www.attrition.org/dataloss – A database that includes a running list of reported data breaches. This page is updated quite frequently.
Annualcreditreport.com- Receive your annual free credit report. Toll free number: 877-322-8228.
National Do Not Call Registry: (888) 382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov (to reduce telemarketing calls).
888) 5-OPT-OUT / (888) 567-8688 or opt out online at www.optoutprescreen.com (to opt of pre-approved credit card offers).