Any victim can tell you identity theft is no laughing matter. The hoops you may have to crawl through for weeks or even years to come, in trying to straighten out your life, can elicit far more tears than laughter. These tears would be most certainly tears of frustration as you do anything and everything to reinstate your good name and most probably your good credit.
Those of you who have no identity theft insurance, which means most of you, will spend at least a part of your day notifying businesses and agencies, credit reporting entities and credit card companies. You will write letters that will need to be notarized, claiming you are indeed the unwitting victim and not the architect of some nefarious plot to ruin your own reputation. Meanwhile, until the matter is cleared, you may suffer mightily as your credit score plummets and bills come due. Bills for things you never purchased.. This translates into being denied credit for products and services you really want or paying higher, penalty interest rates for having such lousy credit. You may want to check out missing social for more.
Identity theft begins with nine little numbers. These nine numbers can mean the world to you. They are the nine digits comprising your Social Security Number, and they are as vulnerable to corruption as a politician at a lobbyist convention. Chances are your Social Security has been disseminated, accidentally or for a job. You probably have it in your wallet and on your computer. It may be crumpled up in your trash can; along with the other papers you didn’t bother shredding. With your Social Security Number and your date of birth safely in hand, an identity thief is off to the races.
These are but a few ways thieves gain access to your Social Security Number. There are even creepier ways, including Internet and database hacking. Then there is your new found lover, the Mr. or Miss Possible you met somewhere or even online. This is the person you dated, brought home and after you fell asleep they went roaming your house, rifled your desk or purse, or rummage your computer for your most intimate files. Doesn’t happen? When you discover to your chagrin someone took out a credit card with your name but at a different address, you’ll know the answer.
To an even greater extreme, your Social Security, accompanied by your date of birth can enable an identity thief to not only acquire credit in your name, but maybe a passport, which can used by or sold to some of our more unsavory members of this planet. While there is an adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity, it’s questionable whether there is anything positive about having your identity associated with a terrorist who just made the headlines on CNN.
Losing your identity to someone else will not only damage your credit and create all sorts of legal troubles. You can face psychological difficulties as well. Besides the task at hand to make your life whole once again, you will feel violated and abused. After all, our very identity is based on…well…our identity, and if some louse has usurped it for his own purposes, then it is understandable that until you repair the damages you feel you have lost at least a little piece of yourself. Identity theft is also embarrassing, because it will become incumbent upon you to explain to everyone that matters why your life has been rendered upside down.
Perhaps the worst part about identity theft is it may be quite awhile before you realize how much damage has been done. If someone applied for credit or ordered credit cards in your name but at a different address, months can pass before you are located and notified of your lapses by either the credit service or the collection agency they send after you. It is a rude awakening the day you get that first call and throughout the day begin to wonder what other shoes may begin to drop. More often than not, if someone secured credit in your name, they will secure more, running the limit in many cases. From that day on you are facing the grim ordeal of cleaning up the mess.
Not all identity theft will relate directly to credit acquisition and unlawful purchases. In Border States especially but no exclusively you may find undocumented workers have somehow come upon your social security number. Perhaps, again, you neglected to shred the sensitive information you dumped into your trashcan. Perhaps he bought it from one of hundreds of peddlers who sell phony documents and someone else’s Social Security Numbers to undocumented workers questing increasingly to appear like legitimate immigrants.
Run a credit check on yourself on a regular basis. Don’t access just one credit card service, but run all three major reporting companies. They are Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. There are deals all over the Internet where you can run all three credit services for a total of $25. It is best to run it at least every six to eight months. Monitoring your credit scores on all three services is money well spent.
Finally, we get down to the cheapest and often the best preemptive defense against identity theft, that is besides doing all the foolish things that were mentioned in the earlier paragraphs. Run your own Social Security Trace. There are a variety of reputable companies that should be willing to run your number. Some may require a consent form, verifying you are who you really say you are. This only assists you in protecting your identity, so I would never let that be an obstacle.
When you run your Social Security Trace you will be able to ascertain what names are attached to your number. Sometimes, due to mixed financial efforts, you might your spouse attached, and that is seldom worth concern. It is the strange name or, in some cases, strange names that should cause some alarm. As I noted earlier, this could be undocumented workers who usurped your Social Security Number to appear as a legal worker. Or, worse case scenario, it could be someone out to use your name for their own personal gain.
Once you know that someone has stolen your number, you can notify the appropriate credit services and authorities that there may well be an interloper. You can request they screen any purchases on you accounts and notify you when there are transactions in other cities. Identity Theft insurance will help with that. You can notify the legal authorities, and maybe they will help you track it down. In any event, the faster you become aware that someone has stolen your identity the greater the chance you will minimize the damage.
Finally, there is no reason to live your life with a siege mentality. It is wise to remain aware and to be sentient, especially with regard to who may have stolen your identity. Remember, credit is great but don’t abuse it. Most importantly don’t allow someone else to abuse it for you.