Credit card fraud and identity theft are still on the rise. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five consumers has an error on their credit report. Even though Virginia recently changed laws involving identity theft, increasing the punishment if convicted, you may still be stuck with damaged credit and the hassle of trying to repair that damage. It is not as easy as just calling the bank or credit company and telling them there’s a problem. It can take months to years of effort trying to get the credit bureaus to change anything, even after you have proven the error or theft. One preventative step is to frequently monitor your credit and bank accounts so you can quickly take action to prevent a small breach from becoming a major issue. There are three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can request a free credit report from each agency annually.. Once discrepancies are found, you need to contact the credit agency(ies) right away to dispute the erroneous charges. Make sure all requests for information and all claims of error are put in writing and sent by certified mail. This will help lay the groundwork for a lawsuit, should that become necessary. You will need to prove that you have done your due diligence every step of the way.
Keep in mind thieves don’t just steal your wallet and drain your bank accounts anymore. With today’s technology they are able to open new lines of credit in your name or create a new identity using your social security number. They may call and pretend to be from your bank, saying that there has been suspicious activity and ask you to verify your information. Hackers have even attempted to break into retail or restaurant databases to steal your credit card information. Online retail stores are prone to this, especially if they do not have a secure website. Sometimes dishonest cashiers will use skimmers or switch out your credit card for a fake that looks like yours. Thieves will try to place card skimmers on ATMs and gas pumps or take your bills from the mailbox. Some thieves will peruse the obituaries and then take advantage of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to get social security numbers.
It is not just your credit that you need to be worried about. Think about how often you hand over your children’s information- at schools/daycares, doctor’s offices, sports teams, camps, etc. If those files are not handled properly, your children’s information could be stolen and misused.
There are a few things you can do to help keep your credit safe: be vigilant in checking your credit card statements, never give information out over the phone or by email, pay attention at the register, and don’t list full birthdates or addresses on social media sites such as Facebook.
If you would like to schedule an appointment to review your credit report errors and how to have them corrected, please feel free to contact Parks Zeigler, PLLC,at (888) 691-9319.