Take steps to protect your identity

October 31, 2012 

You have heard it said, “Go for the gusto.” Or maybe, “You only go around once in life so grab all the experiences you can.” How about, “I want to experience all life has to offer. This is not a tryout, it is the real thing.”

Well, recently I have gained the experience of a lifetime. I assure you, you don’t want to have that experience.

On Sept. 4, someone tried to open a credit card account in my name. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Until you realize just how serious this is.

Guess what. On Sept. 17, there were two other attempts to open a credit card account in my name. I have to give it to the thief -- he or she is no quitter.

Please notice that I said there were, so far, three attempts to open an account in my name. They all failed because I had taken steps to protect my identity, and I would suggest you might consider doing the same.

Several months ago, I had an uneasy feeling and decided to secure the services of an identity theft protection company. I did not and do not like paying them, but it is certainly cheaper than trying to resolve matters arising from a stolen identity and ruined credit.

I want you to know what you must do if and when this should happen to you. First, notify the credit bureaus and have a 90-day fraud alert placed on your credit reports. You only need to notify one of the three bureaus as they will notify the remaining two. Second, you need to file a police report. In the event the crook is ever successful, this will substantiate your defense somewhat in dealing with anything else that might arise.

It is important that you take immediate steps to protect your identity. I haven’t mentioned it, but when I went to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office to file my report, the deputy told me that seven other residents had filed similar reports. None of them had any ID protection services.

What are some of the things you can do to protect yourself? Shred any document you receive with any personal information. Do not place your life history on any social network. Do not respond to any e-mails saying that you won the prize of a contest you never entered. Do not respond to unsolicited credit applications.

I might also suggest that you consider purchasing an ID protection service. I know the idea of paying for something like that gives you heartburn, but are you paying for a home alarm system now? It’s the same thing. You are just attempting to protect yourself and family from criminals.

Oh, if you do place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit bureau files, please remember it is your responsibility to extend that alert status every 90 days. Also, after you do establish the fraud alert, you will be contacted for verification whenever you attempt to secure any additional credit.

Final thought, it is not as nice a world as you might think. So, stay safe out there.

David Wittenberg resides in Kathleen. Contact him at dkw460@yahoo.com.

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