Identity theft is a common occurrence that can ruin your credit score due to debt that can accrue from accounts opened under your name. Although the Internet makes shopping easier than ever, you are also likely to have your personal information stolen if you use a public Wi-Fi network while shopping online or accessing your bank account. Spyware programs on your computer may also intercept your personal information and send it to the creator of the program, which leaves you vulnerable to identity theft. You can reduce your chances of identity theft by monitoring your credit and disputing unfamiliar purchases.
Check your monthly credit card statement. Dispute any charges that you are unsure of by calling the credit card company. Access your monthly statement online or check it once it arrives in the mail. Log in to your credit account online to find out the most recent purchases made, and carefully go over each purchase to determine if they are legitimate.
Request a copy of your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Read the report thoroughly to see if any new accounts have been opened under your name. If so, call the company immediately and dispute the new account with the Federal Trade Commission by calling (877) 438-4338. Check your report for credit inquiries from companies you didn't authorize, as it could be a sign of someone using your credit.
Check your mail frequently. A clear sign of identity theft is receiving credit cards or billing statements in the mail for cards you didn't apply for. According to the Federal Trade Commission, if a thief obtains any piece of mail with your Social Security number on it, you are at risk for having your identity stolen. Your Social Security number is like a password that allows you, or anyone else that has it, to apply for a loan or use your credit.
Sign up for credit monitoring service. A credit monitoring service may be offered by your credit card company or bank. This service will send you an email alert or call you to notify you of any unusual charges to your credit account or credit report. Contact your credit card company or bank and ask to sign up for account protection.
Be careful sending private information, such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers and Social Security numbers, over the web, especially if the website does not have a lock icon on the screen that represents a secure site.
Things You'll Need
Credit card statement