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Check Your Credit Report Regularly

You may reprint or publish this article free of charge as
long as the bylines are included.

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Check Your Credit Report Regularly

Identity Theft & Your Credit Report
Identity theft is a type of fraud in which financial
information is illegally obtained for the purpose of making
unauthorized purchases and transactions with credit cards or
funds from financial accounts. A thief can use your personal
information such as your name, drivers license, Social
Security number, health insurance, or bank account number,
to make purchases as if they were you. If this happens, it
could be the beginning of a financial disaster that could
linger for years and cause you to lose job opportunities, be
turned down for credit or loans, and in some cases, ruin
your reputation.

There are a lot of thing you can do to minimize the risk of
becoming a victim of identity theft. This article focuses on
obtaining and reviewing your credit report, quite similar to
what we do when we perform network security assessments,
believe it or not.

What Is A Credit Report
There are three major credit bureaus that collect, maintain,
an distribute credit information about you. These companies
are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Some of the
information you will find in your credit report is; personal
information such as your legal name, alias names, addresses,
current and previous employers, and date of birth; your
credit summary such as current and past credit status, total
number of open and closed accounts, the balances of
accounts, if they are current or delinquent; public record
information such as federal bankruptcy records, local
government court records, liens, judgments, and child
support records (information that can stay in your record
for up to 10 years); credit inquires - when you apply for a
credit card or loan, the institution will make an inquiry to
one or more of the credit bureaus; detailed account history
- very up to date information about your loan payments,
credit card debt and payment history, and this information
stays on your report indefinitely; credit score - a number
ranging from 330 to 830, the higher the number the better
your credit is and increases the chance of you obtaining a
loan or credit account.

Why Should You Check Your Credit Report Frequently
If someone gets your Social Security number, it only takes a
few additional pieces of information, which is quite easily
obtained, to assume your identity. The Internet makes it
even easier than ever because most of this information the
criminal needs to get his hands on is out there. It is not
my purpose to scare anyone, but I must tell you that if you
think you are not at risk, you need to think again.

The most common forms of identity theft include; credit card
fraud, bank fraud, communications services, and fraudulent
loans. The bad thing is that this type of fraud can
negatively impact your life, the good thing is there are
ways of monitoring what other people do with your identity.

Do you know, that nearly all of the security assessments we
perform, we find personal and financial information on work
computers. What ever you do, do not store this kind
information at your workplace. This is a sure fire way of
becoming a victim of identity theft. If I had more room in
this article I could tell you stories about identity theft
and fraud that would make your hair stand on end. And,
everyone of us are potential victims.

Things You Can Do To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
I've written other articles about identity theft, and I am
sure I will write more. The bottom line is this is one of
the worst things that can happen to you financially, and the
risk of it happening is quite high. Some of the things you
can do to minimize this risk besides regularly checking and
monitoring your credit report is:

Shred all of those pre-approved credit cards you get in the
mail. This includes any document or item you receive that
contains your Social Security number, date of birth, or any
other personal identity information.

Never print your Social Security number, phone number, date
of birth, or credit card information on your checks. If a
merchant ask you for this information so they can write it
on your check, do not give it to them. Even if they tell you
you cannot make the purchase without it, go somewhere else.

Secure your mail and email. Did you know that a common
tactic for thieves is to divert your mail by filing a change
of address at the post office. Of course, there is the
typical method of just reaching into your mailbox and taking
checks, utility bills, and so on. Because people use email
as a substitute for snail-mail (normal paper mail), you
should be careful what you email to people as well.

Monitor your credit by obtaining a credit report from one of
the three, if not all three, credit bureaus. They may be
able to provide you with a consolidated report from all
three companies. And, most of them have inexpensive monthly
services that monitor your report for you and send you
alerts when things change or inquiries are made on your

As a consumer, you need to take this issue of fraud and
identity theft very seriously. Not only should this be
important to you, but if you have a family, you should see
it as an obligation to protect their future. As with any
type of security issue, there is nothing 100% secure.
However, you can take steps to minimize your risk and
exposure. Remember, it is typically the easy target
criminals focus their attention and efforts on.

Obtain your credit report and review it thoroughly, you
might be surprised by what you find. If you happen to see
something that is not right, take immediate steps to clear
it up.

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