Identity theft is becoming a rampant pandemic in the United States. In 2012, the identity theft statistics showed more than 642,000 identity theft victims, and those were just the ones the IRS knew about. Thieves are getting sneakier in their attempts to gain access to people's personal information, and the numbers are on the rise every year. It is important to keep your information as secure as possible, and to be diligent about reporting it should you discover it compromised. There are some pretty serious consequences that could arise if you don't.
When you first discover that you have missing information, or if your information was outright stolen, then the very first thing you need to do is place an initial fraud alert. You must notify the credit bureaus as quickly as possible to minimize the damage that can be done. Technically, you are only required to notify one of the three, and then that one is supposed to notify the other two. However, if you feel more comfortable informing all three yourself, you can do so. Once the alert has been placed with your credit report, the next step is to notify your bank or credit union, your lenders, or any other relevant places where you do business. You will also want to order a copy of your credit report to make sure that there hasn't been any activity which you did not authorize. If left unchecked, a stolen identity can cause you some serious financial and credit problems.
Another unfortunate consequences of identity theft is that you could potentially face jail time. This is a remote possibility, but it exists all the same, and it will vary based on which state you live in. Some identity thieves commit fraud or other criminal acts using your information, which makes you liable until it is sorted out. This is why it is so important for you to fill out the police report and place an alert with the credit bureaus. With those protections in place, if your situation does escalate, an actual arrest may be prevented. However, without those protections, an arrest could be made, and you would have to prove you did not commit the crimes, on top of dealing with an arrest record, which can sometimes make it difficult to find a job.
The consequences of identity theft are numerous, but one that no one ever thinks about is medical identity theft. Imagine the horror of being rushed to the hospital for an emergency procedure, only to arrive and find that you have supposedly already had that same procedure. Or, perhaps you attempt to donate blood and are denied because your medical records show you have an STD. It is not unheard of that identity thieves use a stolen identity to receive treatment for medical concerns, but it can pose a problem for you. This is especially a problem in the emergency procedure example because the resulting confusion only delays the procedure. When time is of the essence, identity theft could cost you dearly. The best way to prevent medical identity theft is to safeguard your medical information, and check your credit reports annually.
If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, the best thing to do is to file a fraud alert with the credit bureaus, and fill out a police report. Staying ahead of the theft can help you minimize the damage done, and can prevent major consequences such as being arrested or having your medical information compromised. The best way to prevent identity theft is to be careful with your information. Keep your purse or wallet on your person and do not leave it in your car. Be careful which websites you choose to share your personal information with, and be sure it is a trusted resource. Make sure your home computer has the proper firewalls, antivirus, and antimalware protection to keep hackers and other thieves out of your files. With a little due diligence, you might be able to avoid any loss at all.
Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of writing articles on credit monitoring and educating people to monitor their monthly credit report to prevent you to be a victim of credit fraud. Follow her on Twitter to know more on learn what collections does to your credit.
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