Navigating a clear course toward your financial security.

Protect yourself from Identity Theft

 In today’s society, your credit rating holds important weight and says much to others about your trustworthiness.  More essential than your good word, it enables you to open a checking account, rent a car or get a credit card.  You must have a good rating to buy a house or take out a loan.  Your excellent credit rating, or lack thereof, determines your ability to transact your personal or business financial life.

Safeguarding your credit rating is very important.  Our judicial system tells us that we are innocent until proven guilty.  But this does not hold true in the credit system.  If a creditor files a report that you were late with a payment, or missed a payment, it goes on your record.  It is then up to you to prove them wrong.  If you can’t prove it conclusively, your credit rating may be damaged.  This is especially frightening if your credit identity is stolen.  Even though you are innocent, it will cost you time and money to clear your name.  It is unlikely that you will catch the identity thief, or recover any of your expenses from him.  It is altogether a messy situation with costly ramifications.

There are several simple but important ways to protect your credit:

  1. Buy a shredder.  Shred any paperwork you are discarding that has personal information on it, such as account numbers, social security numbers, dates of birth, etc.  These documents include, but are not limited to pay stubs, bank statements, deposit receipts, old tax returns, utility bills, even credit card offers that come in the mail.
  2. Obtain a credit report once a year.  At a cost of $8 for each of three major credit reporting agency reports, you can review your credit standing with all of the companies through which you hold credit.  Look for credit lines that are not yours.  Look for excessive inquiries made on your report.  If you can’t account for all of them, it could mean someone is trying to get credit in your name.  You can challenge these inquiries if you want to find out more information.  It is also a good idea to review the reports for old credit cards you no longer use.  Contact these companies and close your credit account. 
  3. Secure your paperwork.  Unfortunately, family fraud is more prevalent than we would like to admit.  Repairmen, cleaning ladies and roommates are examples of non-family members who should not have access to your personal documents.  Buy a locking file cabinet or rent a safe deposit box.  Lock away such documents as credit card receipts, pay stubs, bank statements, deposit receipts, old tax returns and anything with your social security number on it.
  4. Take your name off mailing lists.  “Preapproved” credit cards can be stolen from your mailbox.  The fewer credit card offers mailed to you, the safer you are (and the less tempted you are to add new credit cards!)

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