A few years ago I was traveling on business and got a strange call from Home Depot Credit asking that I call them as soon as possible.  When I called, they stated that they thought it was odd that I would open another account since I already had one.  I never opened it, and on the day that it was opened my wife was at work and I was in Minneapolis, far from the West Virginia store where the account was opened.  The crooks charged $2,300 of consumable building supplies and quick selling tools that same day.  They then went across the street to Lowe’s and did the same thing, only I didn’t find out about it until I received the credit card in the mail.  If this has happened, or is happening to you, follow these steps.

File a Police Report
Immediately contact your local police department and file a police report regarding the theft.  Ensure that you have the credit card information, the amount of the fraud, and the location where the account was opened.  While they may be reluctant to process the report, insist that they do so that you have proof it was reported and that the crime gets included in statistics and other databases.

Contact the Credit Reporting Agencies
Contact the three credit reporting agencies using the numbers here (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/fraud_numbers.html) and request that they put a fraud alert on your credit report.  The alert should instruct credit issuers to contact you at your home/cell phone number prior to opening credit.  The default duration for these alerts is 90 days, so if you want it on the report longer be sure to ask them about a seven year one.

Request Credit Reports Regularly
Once you have been a victim of Identity Theft you need to request credit reports regularly because it can happen again at any time.  I have had someone charge an excessive amount at Pier One Imports in New Port Richey, FL, and after using my credit card in Kenya someone bought airline tickets and booked hotels in Australia.  You can go to www.annualcreditreport.com to get one report free each year from each of the credit reporting agencies.  I recommend NOT getting them all at the same time.  Instead, order one of the agencies every four months.  You could also sign up for a credit monitoring service to monitor all three reports daily.  Some even allow you to pull updated reports from all three agencies whenever you want them.

Use Banking and Credit Card Websites Often and Set up E-Mail Alerts
Many banks and credit cards allow you to set e-mail alerts for various account conditions, including alerts for purchases that are over a set amount.  This works well, especially if you rarely make purchases over a set amount.  This is how I found out about the excessive charge at Pier One Imports.  I immediately called the bank and they started an investigation plus issued new cards.  You should check these sites often, as fraud can occur which could be small enough not to trigger the alerts.  The faster you can report the incident, the more willing your bank or credit issuer will be to work with you to resolve the matter.

Check out these resources for more information about identity theft and other threats.

Hackers’ Handbook 3.0 (Expanded, Revised and Updated): Includes WiFi, Identity Theft, Information Warfare and Web 2.0

Identity Theft: Protecting Yourself In The Information Age [VHS]

Identity Theft: How to Protect Your Credit, Your Money, and Your Good Name [VHS]The Harms Of Identity Theft And How To Protect Yourself From It! How To Protect Yourself In Every Way Possible From Identity Theft! – AUDIOBOOK

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