Identity theft is a real problem that affects millions of Americans every year. And, the number of victims keeps growing. According to Javelin Strategy And Research, over 16 million cases of identity theft were reported in 2017 resulting in over $16 billion in stolen money.
Identity Theft Explained:
Stated by a credit repair company in San Antonio, when your personal and sometimes sensitive information is stolen from you and then used to open accounts in your name, you become a victim of identity theft. Stolen information includes your name, social security number, credit card numbers, bank account information, and other financial data.
Your information can be taken via discarded mail, email scams, attacks on financial institution databases, or through any other company that stores a list of sensitive consumer data, for that matter. Thieves may start off with just a couple of pieces of information about you. They use this information to access further data that are key in opening accounts in your name and racking up debt.
The Impact Of Identity Theft On Your Credit Score:
Simply put, the longer identity theft continues the more it ravages your credit. If you have not put an identity theft monitoring mechanism in place, months may pass before you realized someone has been using your identity. You may not notice until the day you apply for a loan and are surprisingly turned down.
Identity thieves have no interest in protecting your credit. They’ll use your identity as long as they can to spend money until your score is so negatively affected no more lines of credit can be opened in your name. This means, depending on the condition of your credit when your identity was stolen, thousands upon thousands of dollars of debt can accrue before you ever realize your identity has been stolen. Then, your score will plummet from too much debt and have to start rebuilding your credit score.
Recovering From Identity Theft:
Once you discover you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you must contact all the financial institutions affected such as credit card companies, banks, and other lenders. Report the incident with them, and they’ll help you begin the process of filing your claim and freeze all fraudulent accounts.
Next, you’ll need to have new cards issued for any existing accounts you had before identity theft took its toll on your credit. Next, put a freeze on all future lending with a fraud alert. Instituting fraud alert mechanisms will tell lenders to take extra precautions before granting a new line of credit in your name for the next 90 days.
Protecting Your Credit:
The best way to ensure you don’t become a victim of identity theft is to use a credit monitoring service. These services often come as a no-cost benefit offered by many existing lenders. Credit monitoring will alert you any time there is a change in your credit score. It will also let you take a peek at your credit any time you need to check in on it.
You can also protect yourself by using unique, strong passwords at each of the financial websites you have credit lines with. Never click on emails asking for personal information from you. Shred all financial documents, and never give out passwords on the phone.
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