How often do you check your credit report? For far too many consumers the answer will be “Only when I want a loan.” That means that identity thieves can use your credit and your good reputation for months or even years before you discover their activities.
You might not notice at all until you find your bank account empty. Or, you may receive a notice from the IRS denying your tax refund because it has already been paid – or worse, asking why you didn’t report ALL of your income for the year.
The fact is, over ten million consumers were victimized by identity theft in 2008, and experts predict that the number will be greater for 2009. Not only are the thieves draining bank accounts and running up huge balances on credit cards, they’re using other people’s identities to rent homes, gain employment, and access health insurance.
You can’t insulate yourself from it, but you can nip it in the bud and prevent the thief from continuing to use your identity month after month.
I just read about a typical case when a woman wrote an on-line forum to share her distress. She asked if anyone else had been victimized as she had. I wrote back and said “Yes, about ten million per year.”
She had gone on line to check her bank balance and found that while her house payment and her insurance payment were set to come out automatically, there was no money there to cover them. She was frantic, because she had no “extra” money to put into the account to cover those expenses.
It turned out that when she went back through the transactions, she found that the theft had begun several months ago, and was ongoing.
Why had she not looked at her bank account for several months? Had she balanced her statement when it arrived, she’d have seen transactions that were not hers and stopped the theft in its tracks. Every consumer should check every bank statement and credit card statement as soon as it arrives.
In addition, everyone should keep a careful eye on his or her credit report. Activity such as a new account, a jump in the balance of an old account, a balance on an account you believe is inactive, a new job, or a change of address will alert you to a theft before it gets completely out of hand.
Check your credit report today – and check all the statements from your banks and credit cards every time they arrive.