Identity Theft Prevention

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Mr. Joseph Arnone


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Is Your Identity at Risk?
Tips For Preventing Identity Theft

How can someone steal your identity? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft is a serious crime.

People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years - and their hard-earned money - cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 allows victims of identity fraud the right to file police reports and to recoup damages. It also appoints the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to serve as an advocate for victims by assisting them with finding the right law enforcement agency to prosecute their case.

If you think your identity has been stolen, here's what to do:

1. Contact the fraud department of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge.

2. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Create an Identity Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.

3. File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.

4. File your complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations.


Tips On Preventing Identity Theft

1. Shred or burn any papers with financial information and identifiers, such as account numbers or your Social Security number. Tearing documents in half and throwing them in the trash is not enough protection.

2. Don't put your Social Security number on any document unless it is legally required.

3. Check your credit report regularly (ideally, twice each year) to make sure you recognize all the entries.

4. Remove your name from promotional lists operated by credit reporting agencies and credit grantors.

Bought a House? Need a Loan?

Once you have found the perfect home and negotiated the price and terms, it's time to tackle the most difficult part of the transaction - finding the perfect loan. Every homebuyer should do comparison shopping among lenders. Your realtor can refer you to several reputable lending institutions as well. Once you've made a choice, the loan officer will take your application and have you sign all the necessary papers to authorize credit and employment verifications. Request periodic progress reports to make sure that all of the details are taken care of. These reports will help to ensure that any potential problems are discovered and addressed before they can threaten the timeliness of the transaction.

The Trivia Block

Which famous skilled mason laid the cornerstone of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. in 1793?

George Washington, the first President of the United States.