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- You have the right to ask the nationwide credit reporting bureaus to place fraud alerts in your file to let potential creditors and others know that you may be a victim of identity theft.
- You have the right to free copies of the information in your file (your file disclosure).
- You have the right to obtain documents relating to fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information.
- You have the right to obtain information from a debt collector.
- If you believe information in your file results from identity theft, you have the right to ask that a credit reporting bureau block that information from your file.
- You also may prevent businesses from reporting information about you to credit reporting bureaus if you believe the information is a result of identity theft.
Identity theft is an issue that we’ve all heard about. Unfortunately, in today’s world, chances are that you’ve been affected and might not even be aware of it. Just think of all of the high-profile instances of data exposure that have happened in recent memory – JPMorgan, Target, Equifax, and the list goes on. And for each high-profile incident such as those, there are countless more instances of compromised data that will forever go unnoticed. Whether this is because hackers are just amazing or because organizations have too relaxed of security standards, the fact of the matter is that it is your information that’s being compromised.
Add all of these factors with the growing trend of data dependency and you’ve got a formula for a segment of the world’s population that are exposing themselves to more and more risks when it comes to their personal data – many times even willingly. Remember a time when the thought of using a credit card online was blasphemous? My point exactly. We’ve changed as a society and have accepted this risk of data exposure for the sake of convenience.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying we’re wrong to do so. The fact that I can sit in my living room and tell Google to order me a pizza while never breaking eye contact with the latest Game of Thrones episode, in my opinion, is the epitome of comfort and convenience in today’s digital world.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
Spoiler alert: You Can’t.
Living a life of total Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data security would be incredibly difficult in today’s world. Just think about every ancillary technology event of your day. You probably take photos with your smartphone (all of which are typically stored on a remote server). You probably take advantage of online banking. You probably store most of your passwords electronically for easy login to the various websites that you use. I mean, most of us wear devices that literally digitize the performance of our own internal organs (fitness trackers).
The odds of ensuring that a single link in the long long long long chain of interconnectivity doesn’t break are slim-to-none. While yes, we can be more conscious in the ways that we engage this digital world, I believe that our efforts are best spent understanding what you can do to remedy the effects of identity theft after it happens. Because let’s face it, your Equifax information becoming compromised had nothing to do with the strength of your login password.
So What Can You Do?
Due to the nature of our business, we occasionally advise individuals on ways to remedy the effects of identity theft – a blog that is aptly titled "Equifax Data Breach - 6 Steps to Remedy the Effects of Identity Theft".
By taking advantage of the tools you are guaranteed under federal law, you can dramatically reduce your exposure and ensure that you know the necessary steps to take when the day comes that you receive a notification that your information may have been compromised. Below is a list of actionable steps that you can take to remedy the effects of identity theft.
You have the right to ask the nationwide credit reporting bureaus to place fraud alerts in your file to let potential creditors and others know that you may be a victim of identify theft. A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. It also may delay your ability to obtain credit. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide credit reporting bureaus. As soon as the agency processes your fraud, it will notify the other two, which means they must also place fraud alerts in your file.
Experian: 1-888-397-3742; experian.com
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; transunion.com
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; equifax.com
You have the right to free copies of the information in your file (your file disclosure). An initial fraud alert entitles you to a copy of all the information in your file at each of the three nationwide agencies, and an extended alert entitles you to two free file disclosures in a 12-month period following the placing of the alert. These additional disclosures may help you detect signs of fraud, for example, whether fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or whether someone has reported a change in your address. Once a year, you also have the right to a free copy of the information in your file at any credit reporting bureau, if you believe it has inaccurate information due to fraud, such as identity theft.
You have the right to obtain documents relating to fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information. A creditor or other business must give you copies of applications and other business records relating to transactions and accounts that resulted from the theft of your identity, if you ask for them in writing. A business may ask you for proof of your identity, a police report, before giving you the documents. It also may specify an address for you to send your request. Under certain circumstances, a business can refuse to provide you with these documents. See here.
You have the right to obtain information from a debt collector. If you ask, a debt collector must provide you with certain information about the debt you believe was incurred in your name by an identity thief like the name of the credit and the amount of the debt.
If you believe information in your file results from identity theft, you have the right to ask that a credit reporting bureau block that information from your file. An identity thief may run up bills in your name and not pay them. Information about the unpaid bills may appear on your consumer report. Should you decide to ask a credit reporting bureau to block the reporting of this information, you must identify the information to block, and provide the consumer reporting agency with proof of your identity and a copy of your identity theft report. The credit reporting bureau can refuse or cancel your request for a block if, for example, you don’t provide the necessary documentation, or where the block results from an error or a material misrepresentation of fact made by you. If the bureau declines or resends the block, it must notify you. Once a debt resulting from identity theft has been blocked, a person or business with notice of the block may not sell, transfer, or place the debt for collection.
You also may prevent businesses from reporting information about you to credit reporting bureaus if you believe the information is a result of identity theft. To do so, you must send your request to the address specified by the business that reports the information to the credit reporting bureau. The business will expect you to identify what information you do not want reported and to provide an identity theft report.
While it may seem cumbersome, it is absolutely essential that you initiate the appropriate steps outlined above if you’ve been notified of a data breach or have discovered that your information may have been compromised. Identity theft is a long process and can be frustrating, but knowing that you’re doing everything you can to remedy identity theft will give you the peace-of-mind that you’re doing your due diligence.
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