Can Identity Theft Affect Your Credit?

Identity Theft Affects CreditIdentity Theft Affects CreditHaving your identity stolen is a scary thought that seems all too common these days. What’s really scary about it is what they may be using your identity for and how it can affect you. If someone steals your identity and rents an apartment under your name and then gets evicted, that could affect your ability to rent in the future. They could use your identity for jobs and not pay taxes or get fired which could hurt your employment record and your standing with the IRS. They could even use your information to run up medical or student loan debt.

There are certainly a number of ways that identity theft can affect you but the most common thing affected is your credit. Identity theft can devastate your credit and significantly lower your credit score. This can have a long-term effect on your financial future.

How Identity Thefts Affects Your Credit

Identity thieves will use your information to take out numerous credit cards. The credit inquiries alone, made each time they attempt to open a new account, could take 10 – 20 points off your score. They will max out each credit card they get approved for and never make payments. The credit inquiries, missed payments, increase in debt, and the poor credit utilization (debt to credit ratio) will all damage your credit score considerably.

These actions could make it impossible for you to ever get approved for credit in the future and affect other aspects of your life. Not to mention, the crippling debt that would all be in your name. Identity theft is no joke. Thankfully there are ways to protect yourself against identity theft and repair the damages if it does happen.

To avoid having your identity stolen, you may want to consider identity theft protection. You should also request a copy of your credit report each year to make sure everything is in order and there’s no suspicious activity. Early detection of identity theft can make all the difference.

Need help repairing your credit following an attack from identity thieves? Call Credit Absolute for credit repair assistance. 

Source: creditabsolute.com

How Do I Remove Identity Theft From My Credit Report?

Removing Identity TheftRemoving Identity TheftIdentity theft is something that most of us think about at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, identity theft is something that is way more common than we think. It affects 1 in 3 Americans at some point in their lives.  1 in 3. Those are not great odds, my friend. So, it becomes extremely important to learn what to do if this happens to you.

There are a few simple steps to take once you realize you have been a victim of identity theft. Breaking these steps down into small tasks makes the tragedy of identity theft much more manageable. The biggest thing to do once you realize you have been a victim of identity theft is to remove identity theft from your credit report.

Here are the steps to take to remove it from your credit report once and for all:

  1. File a report with the credit agencies
  2. Alert the police
  3. Dispute fraudulent accounts
  4. Dispute fraudulent transactions
  5. Place a fraud alert/credit freeze 

File a report with the credit agencies:

The biggest step in getting fraudulent transactions removed from your credit report is by telling the credit agencies themselves! The three main credit agencies, Experian, Transunion, and Equifax can all be alerted of identity theft by sending a letter in the mail.

You can get a free sample letter to send to each credit bureau, as well as their contact information right here!

This is great because once reported, you will have a report for your records indicating you were a victim of identity theft. 

Alert the police: 

Letting law enforcement know that you were a victim of identity theft is very important as well. Though it may not result in removing the effects of identity theft off of your credit report it will, again, provide a paper trail of the incident.

Here is some additional information on why it is so important to file a police report when you have been a victim of identity theft.

Dispute fraudulent accounts:

Identity thieves sometimes like to open new accounts in their victim’s names. Yep, they become dissatisfied with the amount they are able to steal and take their criminal acts to the next level.

Once you determine which accounts were opened fraudulently, you can go straight to the banks or creditors and dispute the accounts that were opened fraudulently in your name. Cancel debit or credit cards, and notify the banks of the identity theft on your credit report.

Dispute fraudulent transactions: 

Disputing fraudulent transactions can be a tedious task. Often times, identity thieves run up tons of bills in your name with many different transactions. Be sure to request statements from your bank so you can break down every transaction you do not recognize.

It may be beneficial to get a print out of bank statements and bills and highlight all fraudulent transactions, so you can make sure every transaction gets properly reported.

Place a fraud alert and credit freeze: 

Make sure no one else can attempt to open accounts in your name. A great way to do this is to place a fraud alert and credit freeze on your accounts.

You can place a fraud alert by contacting one of the three main credit bureaus. If you place a fraud alert at one credit bureau, it will by default, alert the other two.

Experian provides some great information on how to place a credit freeze. You can call or send notification by mail to the main credit bureaus. A credit freeze means that no one can complete a credit inquiry without your personalized PIN number.

So, be diligent in reporting the fraud on your credit report, and over time, your credit report will bounce back.

For assistance with credit repair and building your credit score, contact Credit Absolute for a free consultation. 480-478-4304

Source: creditabsolute.com

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Protecting Against Identity TheftProtecting Against Identity TheftYou can’t ignore the dangers of identity theft in the digital age. Online management of financial resources has made consumers more vulnerable to hackers and imposters. According to a statement by the Insurance Information Institute, 16.7 million cases of identity theft were reported in 2017. These numbers are not going to decrease any time soon. 30% of US consumers experienced a data breach last year. The US government and consumers should work together to curb the rising crime of identity theft.

What is Modern Day ID Theft?

A data breach or identity theft is an illegal attempt to use someone else’s credentials for fraudulent activities. The US government recognizes identity theft as a Federal crime. Anyone found guilty of identity theft in the US could face jail time of 1-7 years. Identity theft has become a grave concern for consumers. The Consumer Sentinel Network maintains a record of consumer fraud and identity theft in the US. According to them, they received 3 million complaints in 2018 related to identity theft and fraud.

How does Identity Theft Work?

Thieves steal personal data from consumers through various tricks. These tricks range from acquiring bank statements from the mailbox to hacking and online scams. This information gives the thieves access to financial and social accounts of the victims. They use the compromised credentials to gain access to financial accounts.

What is The Use of Stolen Identities

Theives have the intention of using the breached information for fraudulent activities. Imposters use compromised data in the following events.

  • Opening of new financial accounts
  • Getting access to the existing financial accounts
  • Insurance fraud
  • Online shopping from victim’s account
  • Selling victim’s information in the Black Net
  • Using the victim’s identity in criminal activities

Protection from Identity Theft

Identity theft brings a string of interconnected losses and disappointments for victims and their families. It is better to take preventative measures beforehand to protect your data from identity thieves. Identity protection aims to add a series of complicated steps in getting personal information. Remember that identity thieves alway seek easy targets. Anything that does not play by their rules discourages them. You can strategically protect your data by taking these steps.

Use Strong and Different Passwords

Unprotected houses are always robbed first of their valuable items. Similarly, a computer or financial accounts without a strong password attracts identity thieves. A survey report by Experian states that 50% of total US citizens do not add password protection to their digital devices. Lack of password protection makes people an easy target for identity theft.

Moreover, do not make the mistake of using a single password for all of your social and financial accounts. Imposters are going to try their luck on each of your accounts. That is why using different passwords ensures safety to your accounts.

Maintain a Record of Your Financial Activities

Your bank accounts and e-wallets contain your wealth; leaving their activities unrecorded is not a wise move. It is a little difficult for anyone to remember all of their transactions. However, maintaining a record is essential for the protection of your data, and it doesn’t take a lot of time if maintained regularly.

Identity thieves do not make big moves initially. They make gradual advances to take over your financial accounts. A single suspicious transaction can give you a clue of possible theft of your identity.

Avoid Clicking on Malicious Links

Thieves lure their targets by sending them malicious links in emails and text messages.  Breached data gives the hackers control of most of your existing accounts. They can also order new services for them by using your name and money. Never enter your login or bank details to an insecure site. Doing so can make access to your information easy for hackers.

Never Give Away Sensitive Information About Your Financial Accounts On Phone Calls

A call from customer service asking for your PIN Code or social security number is an alarm bell. Nowadays, banks educate consumers to avoid giving login details to anyone on a call. A true representative of your financial institution will never ask sensitive information about your financial accounts.

Thieves seeking information pretend to be part of financial institutions. In the case of getting a suspicious call contact your financial institution and report the suspicious call.

Protect Your Documents with Personal Details

Do not leave hard copies of bank statements and credit card details in your mailbox because ID thieves do not spare your mailbox. For tackling mailbox theft, you can instruct your bank to send soft copies of your bank statements. Moreover, by using the option of particular instructions, you can also fix the delivery time of your documents. In short, never give a chance to the thieves to steal away your information.

Source: creditabsolute.com

How Long Does it Take to Fix Credit After Identity Theft?

Identity theft can be devastating. So you are probably wondering, how long does all of this take to fix? You have worked so hard to keep your credit history perfect and all of the sudden; an identity thief ruins it. The question becomes; how long does it take to fix my credit after identity theft?

Experian, one of the three main credit bureaus, touches on this topic on their blog. They say that fixing your credit after identity theft can take anywhere from a few days to several years to fix. Now, I know that is not necessarily comforting information- but the reason it is so broad is that identity theft can take on a variety of forms!

Truly the time period is based on a number of factors. Knowing which of these situations happened in your particular case of identity theft can help narrow down that broad range of time.

How to Determine How Long it Will Take to Repair Your Credit

Fixing Credit After Identity TheftFixing Credit After Identity Theft

Here are a few things that affect how long it will take for your credit to bounce back after identity theft:

  • Did they use your credit and debit cards?
  • Did they use your social security number to open up new accounts?
  • How long did it take you to notice and report the theft?

Were cards compromised in the theft?

Since this is the most common way that thieves can gain access to your funds, it seems to be the easiest to resolve.  It can be way too easy to lose your credit or debit card, and criminals are way too ready to take your money.

You can read more about protecting yourself against credit card theft, and find out how to report it here.

The basics of reporting card theft go like this:

  • Contact the card issuer; you can use the phone number on the back of the card to do this quickly.
  • Contact the credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion, and Equifax).
  • File an identity theft report with the FTC.
  • Protect yourself against future incidents

Fortunately, card theft is much quicker to resolve and takes a shorter time for your credit to bounce back from! Though it can be increasingly tedious to report, the disputes are typically resolved faster than bigger losses like new accounts opened fraudulently. 

Were new accounts opened fraudulently?

If new accounts were opened in your name, then it can take longer to dispute. The process of closing new accounts, and reporting the fraud can be more time consuming than typical card fraud as mentioned above. This is because there is typically a more substantial loss to you and the institution that loaned out the money. Disputing the accounts opened in your name is the best place to start.

You can get an overview of all open accounts, with a free consultation, by contacting Credit Absolute. This will help you make a list of any accounts you don’t recognize and get to disputing. The same process is followed, of course, when reporting identity theft. Dispute it on your credit report, contact the institution that disbursed the loan, and file a report with the FTC.

This is where the longer time frame comes in when discussing repairing credit after identity theft. It can certainly take longer for disputes to be processed if a new account was involved. Be patient, be methodical about your reporting, and your credit will bounce back in time. 

How long did it take to report the theft?

One of the biggest factors that come up again and again when talking about repairing credit after identity theft is the time it takes to report the theft. In other words, how long did the identity thief have access to your information? If you were able to catch it quickly and report it, your credit will be repaired quicker. However, if you did not catch it for a few months, it will take longer to fix your credit.

To wrap things up in a nice little bow, there is no one clear cut time frame that your credit will be completely repaired after identity theft. It can be anywhere from a few days to a few years. But, if you catch it quickly, and the theft amount was lower overall, then you have a much better chance of repairing your credit sooner.

Source: creditabsolute.com

10 Ways To Protect Your Financial And Personal Information When Shopping Online

In the past couple of years we’ve heard announcements from several companies who have had their databases hacked and private customer information compromised. When this happens the data breached isn’t always financial data, but nonetheless you still probably don’t want your personal information floating around out there where it can be used by a malicious hacker.

Just last week Zappos.com, an online shoe retailer announced that they had been the victim of a cyber attack, and although credit card information hadn’t been accessed, there was still plenty of private information compromised. As such they announced to customers that all passwords would be reset, and all users would have to choose a new password. They also suggested changing password information on other sites where similar passwords were used.

safe online shopping

safe online shopping

Not only is it a headache for the company when something like this happens, but the potential for identity theft and credit card fraud could be a huge liability for us as consumers.

So what can we do to protect ourselves from finding ourselves in a situation like this?

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How To Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

There are a variety of ways that you can protect yourself from hackers, criminals and identity thieves when shopping online.

  • Limit your exposure:  The best way to avoid having your information compromised is to limit where you have it stored.  The less places you save your information, the less databases you’ll be in and the less risk you’ll be exposed to.
  • If the site looks fishy, stay away:  If you’ve gone to a site and it looks a little risky to be shopping there, trust your instincts.
  • Make sure you’re checking out on a secure page:   When you’re checking out on an e-commerce site, make sure to look for the https:// in the url bar, instead of just http:// on the checkout pages.  If the page isn’t secure, avoid entering any personal or financial information.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi or hotspots when shopping or accessing financial data:  When shopping online, try to avoid entering passwords, credit card numbers or other personal information when on a public Wi-Fi access point or hotspot.  Yes, it’s convenient, but it can also leave your data accessible to hackers in some cases.  Also avoid financial sites like bank accounts, mint.com, adaptu.com or other aggregators. If someone gets your password for those accounts you could lose a lot of money, and you may have no recourse.
  • Never give your Social Security number online:  If you’re shopping on a site and they ask for your social security number, it’s probably a scam. They shouldn’t have a need to use your social. The exception may be sites like TurboTax and other tax preparation software where you need to enter your number to file taxes.
  • Check your credit reports and scores:  Most people these days will do some shopping online.  To make sure your data isn’t being used in a negative way, make sure to check your credit reports regularly.  You can get one free credit report from each of the credit agencies once a year through http://www.annualcreditreport.com.   You can also check your free credit scores from free websites like Credit Karma  or Credit Sesame on a regular basis.   A drop in score could mean something is up.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware software: Make sure to have a regularly updated anti-virus software installed on your computer, and make sure it is set to update on a regular basis.  Also make sure that it’s actually set to scan at regular intervals.  My in-laws had the anti-virus software, but never updated it or scanned – leaving them vulnerable.   When I did update their system we found they had a newer virus that it took me several hours to remove.
  • Use a credit or debit card with protection:  When shopping online make sure to use a credit or debit card with identity theft protection of some kind – just in case. Some credit cards also offer one time use credit card numbers. Use them!
  • Be careful what you click on:  When you’re online use some common sense and don’t click on links when you don’t know the source of the email, social media message or e-card.  All are ways that viruses are spread, so only open links from known sources.
  • Use a third party payment system:  Consider using a third party payment system like Paypal when buying things online to add an extra layer of protection – where your credit card information isn’t stored with the retailer.
  • Use strong passwords:  Make sure to use strong passwords that include random numbers, capitalized letters and symbols.  Avoid using family member names, pet names or the word “password”. :)>

When it really comes down to it you just need to use a bit of common sense, follow the guidelines mentioned above and be wary of where you’re putting your personal information.

Note: If the worst case happens despite your best efforts, be prepared to follow through and know who to call in case your identity is stolen. Here’s a identity theft checklist to walk you through what steps to take next.

Have you ever had your personal information stolen or compromised? What would you have done different? What steps do you take to avoid having your information stolen?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

I Tried to Buy a Fake Puppy Online, & Here’s What Happened

I knew going into this adventure that I was dealing with a scam artist who was trying to cheat people out of their money by tugging at their puppy-loving heartstrings. See, I’d written a piece about this scam just a couple of weeks ago after a woman in San Diego almost fell prey to it.

While researching that story, I decided to send a text to the phone number the scammers had used in multiple eBay ads, saying they had adorable puppies named Roxy, Ricky, Rose and Tina (they had ads for at least Old English Sheepdogs and Boxers, all by these names, and were advertising them in San Diego, Baltimore and possibly other areas). The fraudulent sellers had already pulled the ads from eBay after their con was spotted by the woman in San Diego, but a few days after I sent my text inquiring if the pups were still available, I got a response.

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Here’s how it went:

puppy-scam1

Now, as I said, I already knew these folks weren’t on the pup up-and-up. I knew they were going to try to con me out of my money. The ridiculously low price for the “AKC-registered” puppies — just $320 each — was the first clue this wasn’t going to be a legit transaction.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

There were more clues in their text. First, “please confirm the breed.” These folks were advertising that they had to get rid of their beloved puppies because of a recent move (thus the deep discount), not because they were breeders. Second, “just mail you with pictures.” Their English was a little faulty, which isn’t always an indicator in and of itself, but it’s something to watch for if you’re suspicious of an online transaction, as a lot of these folks operate from outside the country and English is not their first language.

Their first email came with a dozen or so pictures of the puppies, plus some questions so they’d know if I’d be a good caregiver. And, of course, the language issues continued.

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And, to get me emotionally connected, they asked me some more or less legitimate-seeming questions:

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After I answered all the questions and apparently passed muster for being able to provide a loving home, the scammers said they were arranging shipment of the pups, their toys, all their paperwork, etc., and they asked me to wire them the money through Western Union so they could get that process started:Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 11.38.13 AMBingo. They wanted me to transfer the money to them in a way that is not easily traceable and for which I would have no recourse if they didn’t deliver the pups. As Western Union says on its website, “Western Union money transfer is the best way to send money to people you know and trust.”

But not strangers. Never, ever strangers. Why?

“If you send money to someone you do not know, you run the risk of fraud. Be cautious when a stranger asks you to send money,” the Western Union warning continues. “If you are sending money to a stranger or unknown person requires you to pay this way for goods or services before their delivery (especially offers on the Internet), for transport or insurance, payments as deposit to secure a lease for housing which you have not seen, allow payment of winnings in a lottery or betting, you run the risk of losing money. If still such a transfer is sent, you do so entirely at your own risk. Western Union is not responsible for the correct and proper delivery of goods or services paid through transfers under the brand Western Union.”

I told the “seller” via email that I was uncomfortable doing a cash transfer, but I’d be happy to pick up the puppies personally since I lived so close to Baltimore (which I don’t, actually). They said they had to leave at 4 p.m., but that they’d be happy to let me pick up the puppies at their address that didn’t actually exist. I feigned ignorance of that fact and told them I’d be driving to them soon. Of course, when I “arrived” they were nowhere to be found.

puppy-scam

And, not surprisingly, almost a week later, I’m still waiting.

The bottom line is, never, ever give cash to an online seller for goods undelivered. Always use websites you trust, and never give out any personal information that isn’t a matter of public record. And even then, be wary. Also, if you ever do meet someone to exchange goods, it’s safest to take someone with you and let at least one other person know where you will be and what time you should return.

Fortunately for the people who fall for these kinds of cash-transfer scams, they’re most likely only out the cash they gave away, and it won’t impact their credit. Where the really serious damage from scams can occur is when your identity is stolen or your credit cards are compromised.

If you think you may have fallen for a scam that has compromised your bank or credit card accounts, it’s a good idea to check your financial accounts, credit reports and credit scores frequently for any signs of trouble. Transactions you don’t recognize, unfamiliar entries on your credit report and sudden changes in credit scores are signs of fraud to be immediately addressed. You can check your financial information through your bank or credit union’s online tools. You can keep an eye on your credit by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com and requesting a copy of your free credit reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Image: Dusko Jovic

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Source: credit.com

I Didn’t Open All of These Accounts on My Credit Report. What Should I Do?

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How you use credit affects your credit score. Use too much and your score goes down. Your credit utilization ratio, or how much of your credit limit you use, makes up 30% of your credit score. Your credit report card shows your ratio, credit card debt, credit limit and how different factors affect your score. Get your debt usage now »

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Credit age, aka credit history, is the age of your oldest account, not how long you’ve used credit. Creditors want older credit histories. And older accounts are better for your score. Credit age makes up 15% of your score. See your credit history and the ages of the oldest and newest account on your credit report card. Know your credit age now »

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Revolving credit, installment loans and the mix of the two—student loans, auto loans, mortgages, etc.—make up 10% of your credit score. A good mix shows creditors you can handle different types of debts. See how many revolving credit accounts and loans you have in your free credit report summary. Check your account mix »

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Know How Many Inquiries You Have

Every time you apply for a new credit card or loan, it can show up as a hard inquiry on your credit report. That’s true even for denied credit. And hard inquiries make up 10% of your score and can cause it to drop. Applying for credit too frequently is a red flag to creditors. When was your last inquiry? See how many inquiries you have and how long you’ve had them on your report card. Check your inquiries now »

See Why—and How—Your Score Changed

If you want the details of why your score changed, it’s all there. Simply select “See details” for “Why did my score change” to see the historical view of your credit score—and what’s changed it.

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