Almost 12 million people have been victims of identity theft this year at a total cost of $21 billion, according to the Department of Justice. Besides monetary losses, identity theft takes time to resolve and can be very stressful. Having your identity compromised can also have a long-term impact on your personal finances.
The National Protect Your Identity Week campaign, held annually in October and sponsored by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the National Association of Triads, Inc. (NATI) and the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), aims to raise awareness about identity theft and help people avoid becoming victims of fraud.
Credit bureau Experian has issued a list of tips for consumers who want to be proactive about keeping their personal information safe. They recommend ordering a credit report and examining it closely to make sure credit history is accurate and confidential information has not been compromised.
Here is a list of things to look for on your credit report:
- Check that basic personal information is correct, including name, current and past addresses, Social Security number, birthday, employers, and spouse’s name.
- All open accounts, including mortgages, credit cards and auto loans, should reflect current payments, balance due, and dates the accounts were opened and/or closed.
- Even if an account is no longer active, it can have an effect on a consumer’s credit report. Make sure all amounts and dates are accurate, even on closed accounts.
- Take a look at negative information. If there are past-due accounts, bankruptcies or judgments listed on the report, ensure that they are correct. If not, take action immediately to get these items removed from the credit report.
- Your credit report will list companies or individuals who have made inquiries on your account including credit card issuers, landlords or employers. Make sure you recognize all inquiries. If someone has stolen your identity, they could be trying to open new accounts in your name, causing a spike in credit inquiries.
Any inaccuracies on the credit report could be a sign of identity theft. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Copies of reports can be obtained by going to annnualcreditreport.com. All of the credit bureaus, and most credit card issuers, also offer credit-monitoring services so consumers can be alerted if unfamiliar or negative information is added to their credit report. Click here for more stats on the impact of identity theft.