Identity theft is commonly seen with stolen credit cards or bank information, but it can happen in many ways. No matter what kind of fraud, once it is discovered, the procedure for the victim should be the same.
"The first step you want to take if you believe you're a victim of identity theft is to contact all three of the major credit bureaus and report the fraud, or possible fraud, and have what they call a "fraud alert" attached to your credit report," said Stuart Baker, financial counselor at Green Path Debt Solutions in Marquette.
The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. They can show you your credit report and help find what looks suspicious and can then help you solve the problem. You'll also want to file a local police report. A complete list of the best steps to take and ways to contact the three credit bureaus can be found here from Green Path. There are many people to file reports with, but the more you file, the more likely you are to catch the thief and cover all your bases. One of the safest ways to avoid identity theft is to shred all of your bank statements to protect yourself from dumpster divers. Don't just throw them out or even just tear them up. Shredding them is the best option. Online banking also minimizes the risk of sensitive information getting in the wrong hands. The same protective measures should be applied to anything involving your social security number. "Absolutely safeguard your social security number. If somebody asks you for it, ask them why they need it and what they do to safeguard that information," Baker added.
Never ignore your bank information. Remaining aware of your bank accounts will help you find a fraudulent charge before it gets any worse.
"The best way to avoid it is to make sure you keep an eye on your statements, look at your bills, make sure there aren't any charges on there that you didn't authorize," said Toni Lawson, consumer loan manager at Ishpeming Community Federal Credit Union.
When it comes to avoiding identity theft, vigilance is key.