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Personal Finance

Recovering from identity theft

Identity theft is on the rise in America. Con artists want something for nothing. Unfortunately many innocent people get hurt because of the fraudulent activities of others. Restoring your good name and credit can take much longer to repair than it took to be destroy. The worst part about the whole thing is that you are the one responsible for restoring your identity even though you are not the one who used your name fraudulently. We will discuss some of the simple things you can do to get your identity on the road to recovery and simple things you can do to keep it there.

There are varying degrees of identity theft. For example, if someone uses your credit card once or twice fraudulently and you find out and put a stop to it , you may not have such a hard time repairing the damage. On the other hand if someone gets all your information, your Social Security Number, your birthday and other pertinent information, he can set up false credit card accounts and run up large bills in a hurry.

Con artists can use your information over the phone and internet to get phone cards, etc., and to purchase just about anything as long as they have a credit card in your name. If this goes on for an extended period of time it can be very serious to your credit, and large fraudulent expenses may be incurred. The size of the fraudulent charges and the length of time the theft has gone unnoticed can make it very difficult to clean up your credit and identity. Many lending companies will take responsibility if fraudulent activities are reported quickly.

If the fraudulent activity goes on for a long period of time with large expenses incurred, lending companies make it much more difficult to clear your record and name. There are many questions and hoops these institutions will require you to go through.

When you find yourself a victim of fraudulent activity there are some things you should do immediately. Call the lending company and put a stop to the fraudulent activity as soon as you find out. Depending on the severity of the fraud, you may have to have your credit company cancel your current cards and reissue new ones to you. If your name and identity have been used fraudulently on a wide scale, you will need to contact every company that you have done business with.

This can be large task in itself. Make them aware of what is going on. If something looks suspicious to them, have them contact you. In cases where your Social Security Number has been used fraudulently, contact the government Social Security office. (The government web site http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft also provides a wealth of information on this topic.) They can help you get things straightened out. They deal with this far too often and know what to do in order to help you clean up your credit and Social Security Number. You may also want to contact state government web sites, where you will find further agencies and information to help you.

It is also a good idea to keep good documentation when you first find out about the fraudulent activity. Begin by recording the names of the people you talk to at the different institutions you communicate with. By keeping a good log and documentation you protect yourself and can back up what has happened if needed. Law enforcement may also find your documented information useful in prosecuting the individual or individuals responsible.

There are a number of things you can do to protect your identity once you have everything cleared up (or to prevent it in the first place):

  • Mail payments directly at the post office; never leave them in the mail box.
  • Refuse to give personal information to people who ask for it in surveys.
  • Be very careful giving your information over the internet; be sure you know the site is secure and reputable.
  • If you normally carry your Social Security card in your wallet, take it out and put it in a safe place. If your wallet were to be lost with that card in it, it would be an open door for thieves.
  • Dispose of personal information by shredding or burning.
  • Be careful when using credit or debit cards that people are not close enough to get your personal information (such as at an ATM or a terminal at a checkout stand, etc.). Be aware of the new camera cell phones that can visually capture your information from a short distance away. Block visual access with your body or your hand, etc.
  • If you can afford it, hire a reputable credit watch company to watch your credit and notify you of any suspicious activity.
  • Finally, do your best to protect information and be cautious.

Remember it will take a long time to get your credit and identity cleaned up. Be patient in your rebuilding efforts. If your situation is dire, you may need to seek professional help. Do your homework before going with any identity restoration consulting firm. Good Luck.

About the author
© Simple Joe, Inc.
Lyle Evans is a quality control specialist for Simple Joe, Inc., makers of the popular Simple Joe’s Expense Tracker PC software. Expense Tracker is a quick and simple way to keep track of your expenses and stay within your budget. Expense Tracker is ideal for tracking personal, business, home and club expenses. This article may be freely distributed as long as the copyright, author’s information and an active link (where possible) are included.