Fighting back against ID theft
I was recently notified by my credit card company of a fraudulent transaction on one of my accounts. They are closing the account and opening a new account and I will not be responsible for the fraudulent charges. But now what do I do? I am scared to death about identity theft.
Should I put a fraud alert on my credit reports; contact
the FTC, BBB online? The last time I used the card was online two
months ago. Two fraudulent charges were attempted, one from out
of state that the credit card company declined and the other from
out of country -- but both on the same day! Do I contact the places
that I last did business with? How do I know if it's my computer
that was hacked? Any advice would be a great relief.
-- Jane Gypped
If your state allows it, I'd suggest that you put a freeze on your
credit reports rather than using the fraud alert feature. A Bankrate
freezes for all or victims only?," explains freezes in greater
detail and links to a list
of the states where you can freeze your credit reports. Some
states only allow victims of identity theft to freeze their credit
reports while more forward-thinking states allow all residents to
freeze their reports. If you can't freeze your files, then fraud
alerts are the way to go.
Another precaution is to monitor your credit card
and other financial account activity. If your financial institution
offers account aggregation as a free service, you can view the activity
in all your financial accounts on one Web page each morning. A Bankrate
aggregation: All-in-one convenience," explains account
aggregation services. If that fails, your credit card providers
should offer this ability on your individual accounts.
Monitoring your credit reports on a regular basis
is a good idea. The monitoring services offered by the credit bureaus
are fairly expensive, so I'd suggest a do-it-yourself approach.
You're entitled to at least one free credit report annually from
every consumer reporting agency under the provisions of the Fair
and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. Personally, I rotate my credit
report requests so I review my credit report from one of the major
credit bureaus -- TransUnion, Experian or Equifax -- every four
months. Bankrate has the contact
information to help you request your free reports.
Since you're a victim of fraudulent activity on your credit card, you're entitled to a free copy of your credit report based on that fraudulent activity. The credit bureaus send out the reports when you put the fraud alert on your report.
If, after reviewing your credit reports and transaction
histories, those two charges were the only fraudulent activity on
your accounts, I'd suggest that you take your fraud preparedness
down to "DEFCON
4" and let the fraud alerts, frozen reports, account monitoring
and periodic credit report reviews suffice without contacting merchants,
the Federal Trade Commission or the Better Business Bureau.
I can't tell you whether your computer has been hacked or how identity thieves were able to use your information to attempt to make purchases. As a victim of the ChoicePoint thefts, and a potential victim of the DSW and Bank of America security breaches, I understand your concerns about identity theft. Take the steps I've recommended and your vigilance will give you some peace of mind.
To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask
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