Fallen victim to identity theft?

Despite technological innovations aimed at keeping bank fraud to a minimum, people remain susceptible to the schemes of increasingly adept criminals who commit identity theft. As LifeLock reports, victims fall prey to promises of an “amazing guarantee” that ultimately winds up being a guarantee for a decimated credit score. The end result is an empty bank account, a damaged credit history and a demoralised victim.

Things may seem hopeless in the aftermath of an identity theft, but the good news is that structures are in place to make your financial recovery as easy and pain-free as possible. If you’ve suffered the awful blow of a scammer stealing your identity, take the following steps to keep damage to a minimum.

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Spot scammers

Scammers apply common manipulative tactics when they try to mask themselves as a legitimate company. The Better Business Bureau highlights these red flags:

  • Most companies accept multiple forms of payment like credit cards and checks. If a company requests payment be made via a prepaid debit card, there is a problem.
  • Threats and high-pressure tactics are a sign of a scam. These people will usually cross the line of professionalism. Hang up with these people and do not provide them with any of your personal information.
  • Some scammers will come to your home and claim they are from your utility company. Do not let anyone in your home or provide any personal information unless you have scheduled an appointment.

Place a Fraud Alert

If you suspect your identity has been compromised, respond immediately by placing fraud alerts on your accounts. Call one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax), provide proof of your identity and request that a fraud alert be placed on your account. Once done, this alert will make it far more difficult for a criminal to open further credit cards or loans in your name. It also enables you to obtain a free credit report from each of the three main agencies. Examination of these three credit reports may provide you with valuable hints as to the location and activities of the identity thief.

Craft a Dispute Letter

If an identity thief has opened credit cards in your account and gone on a shopping spree, your best course of action is to write a letter of dispute to whichever credit agency has sunk your credit score. The easy route (sending an email or filling out an online form) may be tempting, but credit bureaus tend to respond better to personalised letters in which victims thoroughly but succinctly explain their unique circumstances. If your plea is strong enough, you just might convince the appropriate party to make a few changes to your credit report and boost your score.

The potential devastation of bank fraud is certainly worrisome, but fortunately, government agencies and credit bureaus do have resources available for those who have been targeted by identity thieves. Take advantage of these resources as quickly as possible in order to minimise damage to your credit. Even the most talented scammer cannot destroy your future if you are willing to take control.

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Hans Ulbricht

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Hans has studied digital engineering and loves to write about the tech world.