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3 Easy steps to monitor your credit from identity theft

Man without identity programing in technology enviroment with cy A few weeks ago, my bank called me within 20 minutes of a transaction they deemed suspicious –most banks monitor the patterns of your account’s movement. As they suspected, my checking account had been hit with a purchase in California for 160 dollars. The occurrence was not major and the bank worked with me to figure the item out. No big deal.

However, I felt very vulnerable and started thinking of all the places I used that debit/credit card for my business account. Although I usually do not store credit information on any online transaction, I remembered I had that card with my PayPal account so I could receive and make payments. I immediately cancelled the card and replaced it with a regular credit card.

So this time the incident was easy to resolve but what if I get hit big time? And even worst, what if someone would use my credit card or any other element of my credit for big purchases, to conduct any business transaction or to just live the good life on my behalf?

Even if you keep your credit in good standing, your worst nightmare, however, is when your credit is hit by identity thieves. According to the Kroll Fraud Specialists and Licensed Investigators, monitoring your credit is fairly easy if you follow some simple steps:

1. Obtain your credit report at least once a year for free

Every consumer who has established credit in the last several years likely has a credit file with at least one of the three national credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The Annual Credit Report Request Service provides consumers with a way to request a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the CRAs. You can order these by calling 877-322-8228, request by mail or online at www.annualcreditreport.com.

A consumer may order all three free reports at one time or choose to order one report from each bureau periodically (e.g., order the Equifax report in January, Experian’s in May and TransUnion’s in September). Ordering the three reports over the course of a year allows you to see snapshots of your current credit history at regular intervals.

 2. Check your credit report carefully and compare it to the previous year

Review each section of the credit report(s) looking for information that is not accurate. Understand that credit reporting errors do happen and inaccurate information on a credit report does not confirm identity theft but even simple errors need to be addressed.

Sections of your credit report include:

Account Information. The credit report reveals not just your current accounts, but the history of your use of credit over the last seven years or more. Are there accounts listed that you did not authorize?

Derogatory Accounts. These are usually collection accounts or accounts to which payments were 30 or more days late. If someone used your personal information but with a different address when opening an account with a creditor and then didn’t pay the debt, you may not find out about it until a collection action is taken.

Public Records, Judgments, and Liens. If you find data here that is not your own, verify that the information reported is really associated with your personal identifiers. This will involve a call to the court or records office in question.

Inquiries. Review only the inquiries that reflect consumer action; that is, the inquiries from companies that pulled your credit report because of an action taken, such as applying for a credit card, car loan, or utility service. If you find inquiries that do not reflect your own activity, it might be a sign that someone applied for credit or another service using your personal identifying information.

Note that inquiries related to offers of credit not initiated by the consumer are not indications of identity theft.

Demographics. This can include name, alias names, associated addresses, date of birth, Social Security number and phone number. If there are names you’ve never used, addresses at which you’ve never lived, or employers for whom you’ve never worked, it warrants further discovery.

3. Dispute the errors or verify fraudWoman calling while calculating bills in kitchen

When you find inaccurate information on your credit reports, the easiest first step is to dispute the inaccurate information by writing a letter to the CRA that is reporting the information. If it is an error, the data will be removed or corrected. If the CRA doesn’t correct an error it may be because the creditor has an error in the information they supplied to the CRA. You may have to call the creditor and have them correct the error.

However, if there is a credit account on your credit report that you did not authorize, then your first step should be to call the creditor involved. Ask to speak to the fraud department and have them search by your Social Security number to determine if there is an account associated with it that you did not authorize.

Although review of a credit report usually will reveal only credit-related identity theft, it may help you discover other types of identity theft as well. For example, an inquiry from a property management company may be a sign that someone applied for an apartment using your identity. An unfamiliar tax lien may indicate that someone did something with your information (i.e., started a business) that created a tax debt that was not paid.

When you find inaccurate information on your credit reports, the easiest first step is to dispute the inaccurate information with the CRA that is reporting the information. If it is an error, the data will be removed or corrected. If the CRA doesn’t correct an error it may be because the creditor has an error in the information they supplied to the CRA. You may have to call the creditor and have them correct the error.

Everyone with a credit history should review his or her reports at least annually. Remember, just because you aren’t using your identity to obtain credit, that doesn’t mean someone else isn’t.

affordable care act, medicare, indetity theft

Identity theft in healthcare coverage

affordable care act, medicare, indetity theftBy Lisa Weintraub Schifferle
Attorney, FTC

October and November are the time of year when you need to pay attention to your healthcare coverage. Whether you need to switch, revise or renew your health coverage, here are some important tips from the Consumer Information page at the Federal Trade Commission.

It’s open season for everyone who wants to switch health coverage. As you select your health insurance plan, watch out for scams. Whether you are on Medicare, selecting a plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or have private insurance, here are some tips to help you more safely navigate the open enrollment season.

Affordable Care Act

If you are shopping in the Health Insurance Marketplace, only shop at HealthCare.gov. People who try to sign you up elsewhere may be scammers. If you’re overwhelmed, you can find free official helpers at HealthCare.gov. Official helpers will never ask for money or try to sell you a particular plan.

Another important tip: the government will not call to sell you health insurance. And no one from the government will ask you to verify your Social Security number or bank information over the phone.

Private insurance

If you’re looking for health insurance, make sure that’s what you’re buying. Be on the lookout for medical discount plans. They’re not the same as health insurance, even though they sometimes pretend to be. Many of these plans are scams that don’t deliver on the services promised. Others are just a way for identity thieves to get your personal information. Your state insurance commissioner’s office can tell you if a plan isn’t insurance and whether the seller is licensed in your state.

Medicare

A variety of scams take advantage of Medicare recipients. Here are a few:

  • An “official Medicare agent” knocks on your door selling Medicare insurance that can save you money. Stop. It’s a scam. There are no Medicare sales representatives. It’s probably someone who wants to use your information to commit fraud or identity theft.
  • Someone calls and says you must join their prescription plan or else you’ll lose your Medicare coverage. Don’t believe it. The Medicare prescription drug plan (also known as Part D) is voluntary.
  • Someone calls claiming that you need to give your Medicare number in order for you to keep your Medicare coverage under ACA. It’s a scam. Don’t give your personal information over the phone. If you need help with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE or go to medicare.gov.

Report health care scams

If you think you may be a victim of a health care scam, report it to the FTC. If the scam is Medicare-related, report it at medicare.gov.

If you gave out personal information, then call your banks, credit card providers, health insurance company, and credit reporting agencies immediately. The FTC’s website has more information on health care scams and medical identity theft.

(Read this information in Spanish here.)