How Can I Find Out If My Identity Has Been Stolen?

How can I find out if my identity has been stolen? We recommend to all consumers to frequently check their credit reports and that's not just once a year. A person typically finds out their identity has...

A person typically finds out their identity has been stolen when they apply for credit and get turned down because of a low credit score, says Lori Lamb, a credit correction and education supervisor with Springboard Non-Profit Consumer Credit Management. She has worked in the credit industry for 12 years. When an imposter uses personal information to obtain credit, this is called stealing a person's identity. After they steal your information, use it and do not pay the debts, then credit companies come after the real person. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a person's credit is ruined because there is negative information about their bill-payment history, and their credit score is considerably lower, making it difficult or impossible to obtain new credit.

Another way to make sure your credit is in your hands only is to monitor your credit reports. Frequently check your credit reports several times a year.

"Identity theft could occur, and before you realize it, months have gone by, your credit has been stolen and you don't even know it," says Lamb. "We recommend that you take advantage of your free annual credit report through the FACT Act, Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, but also take the opportunity to check it quarterly, three or four times annually."

If you don't want to become a victim of identity theft, there are steps to ensure your personal information remains confidential. According to Privacy, do not carry extra credit cards in a purse or wallet. If your purse or wallet is stolen, the thief doesn't have to search hard for your credit cards. Do not carry your social security card, birth certificate or passport either, except when needed. Store this type of information in a place that is safeguarded. To reduce personal information that is floating in the mail or other various places, have your name removed from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Go online to and request to have your information removed. This will limit the amount of pre-approved credit card letters you will get in the mail that contain your personal information. When these letters are tossed in the garbage, a thief can very easily sign the letter and have a new credit card delivered to them. Next, sign up for the Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call Registry and the Direct Marketing Association's Telephone Preference Service. If requested, your name will be taken off, limiting how much of your personal information is floating out there.
Visit and to remove your name. Have your name, telephone number and address removed from telephone directories.

"This will limit personal information that is needed for thieves," says Lamb.

If you don't want your mailbox accessible to just anyone then install a locked mailbox at your home. Use a post office box or commercial mailbox service, which will allow only you and the post office to have access to your mail.

"Be smart," says Lamb. Think like a thief and safeguard your personal information. Do not let anyone have access to your information, because before you know it, your identity is stolen and someone is having a good time personating you."

© High Speed Ventures 2011