Fighting Back With Organization
Recover From Identity Theft
Identity theft is not merely inconvenient, and identity thieves do not just steal the time it takes for you to get your finances back in order. While the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse reports that the average victim of identity theft spends 175+ hours recovering losses and restoring his or her good name, lost time is actually the least of your worries.
9.3 million Americans are victimized by identity theft each year, and that number is growing. Usually, thieves make a few purchases using a purloined credit card number and then move on to the next victim. Keeping organized records and quickly alerting the credit card company means you will suffer minimal financial loss.
In the most DANGEROUS cases, identity thieves CREATE AN ALTERNATE VERSION OF “YOU”—causing untold damage. If someone steals your identity and then uses it to procure services at a hospital, depending on the thief’s diagnoses, it could prevent you from getting health or life insurance later on in life. These bad guys don’t merely ruin your credit rating and keep you from getting insurance, passports and jobs. You could even get arrested if someone commits a felony using your forged identity.
Almost worse than thinking about the potential pitfalls of becoming a victim of identity theft, because of the cases of major corporations being hacked or scammed, breaching our personal data, ID theft is happening more often regardless of our own preventative measures.
Organization is still your best shot at guarding against identity theft, but because upwards of 2.4 million Americans have been left open to identity theft through computer hackers of major companies and universities, defensive moves aren’t enough. ORGANIZATION is also your key move after the criminals strike, so use these tips as a checklist to towards recovery of your good name.
1) CALL THE AUTHORITIES
- CALL one of the three CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES to issue a 90-DAY FRAUD ALERT and get a free copy of your credit report to see how pervasive the problem is.
Equifax 800-525-6285 Experian 800-397-3742 TransUnion 800-680-7289
- CALL your CREDITORS. Close all tampered credit card accounts and have them marked as “closed at consumer’s request”. Make sure you aren’t held responsible for fraudulent accounts opened in your name. If your checks are stolen, call your bank AND Telecheck:
- CALL the POLICE. Filling out a detailed crime report allows you to extend your fraud alert from 90 days to 7 years and helps you officially correct records. This is your main insurance against arrest and prosecution if someone steals your identity and commits crimes.
2) PUT EVERYTHING IN WRITING
- Keep a LOG BOOK of every conversation. Every time you call a credit agency, creditor or the police, write down the date and time of the call, the name of the person you talked to, their badge or ID number and their contact information. Note what they promised to do.
- Follow up every call with a CERTIFIED LETTER confirming the details of your conversation. Fill out your lenders’ FRAUD FORMS and send copies of the police report.
- File a COMPLAINT with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Fill out an ID THEFT AFFIDAVIT, available online:http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/
3) MAINTAIN EXCELLENT RECORDS
Keep a special section in your filing system for logs of phone calls and copies of your letters, affidavits and fraud forms. Keep copies of anything the agencies, creditors or police send you.
OPEN YOUR MAIL as soon as it arrives and check every bill for accuracy; then organize files for each account, dating back at least a year, to track and verify transactions.
4) REMEMBER THAT THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE
NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION via phone or computer unless you initiate the contact and it is SECURE.
Use the free web site http://AnnualCreditReport.com to check all three of your credit reports every year. Investigate anything odd.
- DON’T CARRY your Social Security Card in your wallet. Protect your Social Security Number as if it’s worth a million dollars.
- SHRED convenience checks and anything containing personal account information before discarding.
- Call 888-5-OPTOUT to get off mailing lists for pre-approved credit cards so no one can steal the offers from your mailbox and apply for credit in your name.
Keeping organized helps prevent ID theft, alerts you to a crisis sooner and helps you recover your finances, your legal standing and your good name after the fact. Fight back, and be careful out there!
Copyright © 2005 Julie Bestry and Best Results Organizing. All rights reserved.
About the Author: Julie Bestry is a professional organizer, speaker and author, who helps individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems. Her most recent book is 57 Secrets for Organizing Your Small Business. For information on how Julie can turn your chaos into serenity, visit Best Results Organizing at http://www.juliebestry.com.
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