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Financial Education

Identity Theft 101

December 22, 2014 | Return to Financial Education

Take a moment and count to 3. 1-2-3. In the time it took you to read those numbers, someone’s identity was stolen. It happens that quickly. Every 3.2 seconds, someone loses his or her identity.  Identify theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. Identity theft can affect everyone from children to the elderly. There is really no age range that is exempt when it comes to thieves seeking to steal information. The more you know about the subject, the more protected you will be if identity theft should happen to you.

If you feel that your personal information has been compromised in any way, here are a few steps of what to do next. If you take action quickly, you can stop an identity thief from doing more damage. The following information has been provided from The Federal Trade Commission.

  1. Place a fraud alert. Ask 1 of the 3 credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit report. They must tell the other 2 companies. An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. The alert lasts 90 days, but you can renew it. A fraud alert is free and allows you to receive a free credit report. The 3 Credit Reporting Companies are

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

Experian: 1-888-397-3742

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

  1. Review your credit report. Review your credit report for any unauthorized activity. If you see errors on the report, like accounts you didn’t open or debts you didn’t incur, dispute the errors with the credit reporting companies and the fraud department of each business that reported an error. Contact them in writing. This will make it easier to keep a record in your files. If the errors result from identity theft and you have an Identity Theft Report, ask the credit reporting companies and business to block the disputed information from appearing on your credit reports. The credit reporting companies must block transactions and accounts if you are an identity theft victim.
  2. Consider placing a credit freeze on your credit report. A freeze generally stops all access to your credit report. If you want a business, lender, or employer to be able to review your credit report, you must ask the credit reporting company to lift the freeze. It can be lifted temporarily or permanently. There can be a cost for a credit freeze which is usually around $10 and you it must be paid to each credit reporting company. If you have a police report, you may be able to place or lift a freeze for free.

The only 100% sure way to protect yourself from identity theft or account fraud is to be aware of what is going in and out of your accounts. Security breaches are cropping up in many retailers and the best plan in prevention of loss is to stay in tune with your account activity. The easiest way to do that is to enroll in our secure online banking. You can do so at: www.CountyNationalBank.com.