By Louise Bolger
How to spot and prevent identity theft
sun staff writer
Another week has passed and so far no one is interested in
becoming me. Im not really surprised, since sometimes
I dont even want to be me, but then I know me better
than the thieves who have stolen my personal data. Just in
case there is someone who wants to become you, heres
what to look for and how to stop them.
Identity thieves can obtain your personal information in a
variety of ways. They can get it through theft or fraud from
businesses physical and computer files. Your mail could
be stolen or your trash gone through. Employees of companies
who have access to your social security numbers could steal
this information. Your wallet or purse could be stolen or
your home robbed.
There is even danger when you swipe your credit card to make
a purchase through a procedure called "skimming"
that can capture your information on a storage device setup
for this purpose. Also, computer hackers can try to get into
your personal information by posing as a bank, insurance company
or mortgage company asking for personal information via e-mail.
Identity thieves will use this information to set up new credit
cards in your name, open bank accounts, purchase cars, get
drivers licenses, establish phone service, obtain loans
and even file for bankruptcy to avoid paying the debts they
have incurred while using your name. Arrest warrants can even
be issued in your name for actions taken by the individuals
using your stolen identity information.
If this happens to you, it could take you years to clean up
your credit reports before you can apply for a mortgage or
any other form of credit. It is vital to stay on top of your
credit at all times. Everyone is entitled to a free annual
credit report from all three of the reporting companies, Equifax,
Experian and TransUnion every 12 months. Take advantage of
this important service. This is especially critical if youre
going to purchase a home. Make sure your credit reports are
accurate and have any items that are not yours removed from
the reports. Report missing or stolen credit cards as soon
as possible and file police reports for burglaries and more
As stated previously, filing a fraud alert and adding monitoring
protection is vital as soon as you are aware that your identity
may have been stolen. Frequently, however, you dont
know until erroneous charges occur on credit cards or an invalid
withdrawl is made from a bank account. But as soon as you
are aware of a problem, take swift action.
Most of the time money stolen will be returned and credit
reports cleared, but not before you have spent untold hours
trying to fix the problem and unaccounted for stress in your
life. Because of the incredible increase in identity theft,
consideration should be given to having a monitoring service
become a permanent part of your accounts.
All of this information and then some, can be obtained by
requesting a copy of "Take Charge Fighting Back Against
Identity Theft" published by the Federal Trade Commission.
The publication is free and can be obtained by calling 1-877-438-4338
or online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft. You can also download
a PDF of the booklet .
I trust this is the last time I have to write about identity
theft, it surely wont be the last time I have to think
about it. If there is someone out there who would like to
be me, I hope youre 25 and wear a size 6. That might
make it all worth it.