How a Credit Freeze Can Prevent Identity Theft

credit freeze

It seems like every time you turn on the news or log on to your Facebook account these days, there is chatter about yet another massive data breach. In today’s increasingly digitized world, our personal information has never been more at risk of becoming compromised. Identity theft is a very real threat to your valuable identifiable data, your credit score and your overall financial security. While it can seem like identity theft is out of your control, you actually do have the power to defend yourself. One of the best ways to do this is with a credit freeze.

What Is a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze puts an immediate lock down on your credit information and prevents potential cyber thieves from stealing any of your identifying information in order to open an account (anywhere) and start racking up debt in your name. A freeze will disallow anyone who is not actually you from gaining access to your credit file. Since creditors like banks and credit card companies need to see your credit report before they will open a new line of credit for you, they will be unable to do so unless you specifically lift the credit freeze.

When you initiate a credit freeze, the only people who will have unlimited access to your credit report are you and any current creditors and debt collectors you may have. Employers and some government agencies will have limited access to your credit report.


IMPORTANT NOTE: A credit freeze does not impact your credit score and is totally free.


When Is a Credit Freeze Called For?

A lot of people freeze their credit after they have experienced an information breach or have otherwise had all or part of their personal data stolen. The challenge most commonly encountered when freezing your credit report after an incident is the race against time. Who will “get to” your credit report (and all of the personal information contained therein) first – you, or the criminal?

Because of the aforementioned “race against time,” preventative measures, like freezing your credit before an incident occurs, are much more likely to be effective. With a credit freeze, even if your Social Security number somehow becomes compromised, the rest of your data and accounts will be protected. It is also a great idea to freeze your child’s credit report now in order to protect their future.

How Do I Freeze My Credit?

While freezing your credit is free, it does require you to jump through a few hoops. You will need to contact all three major credit bureaus and freeze your account individually. While this is time consuming, it will be worth it when your credit report and score remain safe if (when) another cyber attack materializes.

Each credit bureau will present a slightly different process to freeze your credit, but you will definitely need to provide them with: your Social Security number, birth date, last two addresses, a clear copy of a government-issued ID card, and a copy of a bill or bank statement with proof of your current address. You can request a freeze via phone, e-mail, or through the good old-fashioned Postal Service.

Once you apply for a credit freeze, the credit bureaus will give you a PIN with which to manage your credit freeze. You will need to keep this number in a safe place because you will also need it in order to unfreeze your information when the time comes to open a new line of credit. Your credit freeze will be activated one business day after you make the request via phone or online, with mail requests taking three business days.

What Happens When I Need to “Unfreeze” My Credit?

To unfreeze your credit, you will need to provide the same credentials with which you initiated the freeze, to the credit bureaus. Per federal law, the freeze should be lifted within an hour if you make the request via phone or email. Mail requests to unfreeze your credit will take three business days.

You can also request to have the freeze lifted temporarily, so a potential employer or landlord can do a quick check before your credit goes back into freeze mode.


PRO TIP: Ask which credit bureau they will be contacting and only unfreeze your data at that bureau.


Is There a Down Side to Freezing My Credit?

There are some cons to credit freezes. The process of requesting and managing a credit freeze with three different credit bureaus can be a lot to juggle. You will also have to go through the extra step of unfreezing your information anytime you apply for a new line of credit. Additionally, putting a credit freeze into effect now won’t protect any of your existing accounts from fraudulent activity.

Regardless of any negatives, in today’s increasingly digital world, protecting yourself from a cyber attack with a frozen credit report is a fantastic—and free—way to keep your personal information private.

What the Equifax Breach Means for Consumers and How to Take Action

The Federal Trade Commission recently reached a settlement with Equifax over a data breach that has impacted around 147 million Americans. The popular credit monitoring agency admitted to a leak that included social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and credit card information. Nearly half of all adults in the United States have been affected and are therefore eligible to file a claim in the settlement to receive compensation from Equifax.

What does the Equifax breach mean for you?

The first thing you should do is check to see if your information has been impacted by this breach. On the official Equifax Data Breach Settlement website, you can enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number to see if your data was part of the breach. Make sure you are using the official, government approved website before entering any personal information. If you determine that your data was indeed breached, you have a few things to consider. The settlement includes three options for compensation:

– A one-time payment of up to $125

– 10 years of free credit monitoring services

– A one-time payment of up to $20,000 if you can prove you spent time or money on identity theft services due to the data breach

In order to receive any of the above compensations, you must fill out the application on the website by January 22, 2020. You can also choose to opt out of the settlement. In order to officially opt out, you must formally exclude yourself by November 19 of this year.

It is important to consider how this breach could impact you before you decide on a settlement option. Despite the low payout amount, consumers should not take this data breach lightly. Once your private, identifying information has been leaked, it can spread indefinitely. Data hackers can sell and re-sell your information forever. If your information is actively being used, $125 is not even close to enough money to cover the cost it will take to repair and protect your finances. Equifax has allotted $425 million for financial compensation—meaning actual, per person payments will likely be much less than the $125 listed. Early applicants will have a better chance of getting the full amount.

Because of this, financial advisors are suggesting that consumers opt for the free credit monitoring or exclude themselves from the settlement all together. Credit monitoring and identity theft services could serve you much better than $125 in the unfortunate event that your information is being sold on the dark web. Opting out of the settlement would allow you to sue Equifax as an individual, giving you more legal power to recuperate your financial losses in the event of a significant identity theft situation. Additionally, if your information has been seriously compromised and you have experienced significant financial loss due to identity theft, it is important to speak with a NJ lawyer who has experience with identity theft.

The one thing you can and should do right away in response to the Equifax data breach is to start practicing better cyber hygiene. Hackers look for more than just social security numbers and credit card information. Oversharing other personal information can be just as costly online. To protect yourself from identity theft online, these three steps can help keep your information secure:

1. Social Media: Make sure all of your social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) are private so the only people who can see your information are those you choose to connect with. Even if your account is private, carefully consider what you share. Hackers can use your hometown, your birthday, your employment history, and other pieces of information commonly shared on social media platforms to acquire your private data.

2. Data Check: Google your name and city and see what pops up. If your full name, address, e-mail, or other personal information appears, this should make you wary about sharing additional information online. The more free information a hacker has access to, the easier it is for them to assume your identity to gather critical data about you, such as your social security or credit card number(s.)

3. Passwords: Get into the habit of changing all of your online passwords regularly and never use the same password twice. If a hacker is able to breach one account, they will try the same password over and over again. This can be disastrous for those who use the same password repeatedly.

With the global transition to online platforms, the way we protect our personal information and financial data has to change. Unfortunately, events like the Equifax data breach are becoming more and more common. Learning how to protect yourself and your personal information from hackers could save you a lot of time, money, and emotional distress. Minimizing the amount of personal information available online can be your first defense against cyber hackers.

 

 

A Relative Stole My Child’s Identity: What Are My Options in New Jersey?

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Having one’s identify stolen is stressful, and remedying the breach is complicated and time-consuming. This is all doubly true when it is not your own identity that is stolen, but rather your child’s. Worst of all: realizing that you are one of the thousands of Americans whose own relative has stolen your child’s identity.

6 in 10 of the children who are victims of identity theft know their perpetrator well. By contrast, a scant 7% of adult victims of identity theft were acquainted with the person who had stolen their information.

While it might seem obvious to you that your kindergartner couldn’t possibly have taken a weekend trip to go scuba diving without you noticing, that won’t make it any easier for you to straighten out the chaos left in the wake of child identity theft; regretfully it’s just as complicated as adult identity theft.

A child’s SSN can be even more valuable than an adult’s; after all, a child’s identity is a blank slate. That means it can be used as part of a con to seek government benefits, to open lines of credit or bank accounts, and to rent housing without conflicting information showing up on the radar.

The following guide will take you step by step through the procedure you’ll need to follow once you’ve discovered that your child’s identity is being used illegally.

1. Contact The Authorities

If your child’s identity has been stolen by a relative, you may be feeling conflicted about reporting your relative to local authorities. Even when we’re betrayed by a family member in such a reckless and selfish manner, many of us would rather not see a loved one prosecuted.

Unfortunately, credit institutions will require a police report detailing the crime of identity theft before they’ll permit you to rectify your child’s good name and credit standing. You must set aside your feelings for your family member and allow the law to intervene.

Before you contact the police, prepare yourself for the reality that is soon to follow. Turning in your loved one means accepting the likelihood that they’ll receive a felony conviction. New Jersey Identity Theft sentencing guidelines suggest prison terms ranging in length according to the severity of the financial damage and hefty fines to go with them.

2. Place a Fraud Alert

The next step is contacting one of the credit reporting companies and placing a fraud alert. The one you choose is supposed to alert the other two, but if you want to be sure this happens, it would be wise to follow up and make sure it’s been done.

Here are the contact numbers for the 3 major credit bureaus:

Experian (TRW) 888-397-3742

TransUnion 800-680-7289

Equifax 800-525-6285

3. Submit a Report to the FTC

Complete the form online here. Once this form has been submitted, you’ll be given a full report on your identity theft and an individualized recovery plan. This report serves as proof of your child’s identity having been stolen, so under no circumstances should you skip this step.

What’s Next?

Once the above steps have been completed, you’ll begin the potentially lengthy process of contacting each institution or individual who has been duped by the con.

Contact the fraud departments for each point of theft and inform them that your child is a minor who is not legally permitted to enter into contracts. Attach a copy of your child’s birth certificate, if necessary.

Close any accounts that have been opened in your child’s name. When you contact a business or bank who lent money or extended credit to the thief, request letters confirming that these accounts do not belong to your child. This letter needs to declare your child free of these debts and confirm that the accounts have been removed from your child’s credit report.

Consider a Child Credit Freeze

Finally, you may consider freezing your child’s credit until they are old enough to use it themselves. A credit freeze simply restricts access to your child’s file, meaning it’s much more difficult for a thief—related to you or a total stranger—to open new accounts in your child’s name.

Contact a Credit Repair Professional

If you’ve worked your way through all of the steps above or got stuck on one of them, reach out to a NJ credit repair attorney. Repairing your child’s credit now is crucial to their financial wellness later in life.

How Identity Theft Affects Your Credit Score

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What (all-too common) crime can happen to you without your knowledge, making virtually everything in life more difficult? Two dreadful words: Identity Theft. Unlike some medical diseases, identity theft doesn’t discriminate; it can strike anyone at any time. The worst part about being a victim of identity theft is that it can have a seriously negative impact on your credit score and it can prove to be difficult to fix.

More people than you realize have been severely impacted by identity theft. When an impostor uses another person’s identity to make a purchase and fails to pay the bill, a storm cloud rolls in. The scammer has zero intent to ever pay the debts they accrue under your name; therefore, you’re left to clean up the aftermath. You may not even realize that your identity has been stolen until a credit agency contacts you. By this point, your credit has likely already taken a major hit.

Your credit score is your representation as a responsible individual regarding money matters. Unpaid bills can have a lasting, damaging impact on your credit report, which can then snowball to affect other areas of your life (obtaining housing, buying a car, getting a decent job). Because payment history makes up about 35% of your credit score, late or nonexistent payments have a momentous effect on your “credit worthiness.” In addition to unpaid bills, identity theft can leave other negative marks on your credit report. Here are five ways that identity theft packs a punch:

1.      New Accounts

Adding a new account to your credit report or getting a new loan shouldn’t affect your credit score as long as you aren’t adding a plethora of new accounts all at once and you’re making regular payments. However, when an impostor opens a new account in your name and fails to make any payments, your credit score will slowly begin to tank. Every month that passes without payment received will lower your credit score further.

2.      Inquiries

If an identity thief is applying for new credit with your personal information, the lender is going to check your credit report. These are known as credit checks, or “hard inquiries” – each of which show up on your credit report. Each inquiry will affect your credit score by dropping it a couple of points. Your score will drop because credit scoring models regard “hard inquiries” as a sign that the consumer is shopping for credit.

3.      Collections Accounts

After no action occurs for 6-12 months on an unpaid debt, the lender will turn it over to a collection agency. This causes a “second action” to be taken, and a collection account will appear on your credit report. Unfortunately, this will have an extremely harmful effect on your credit score. Often, medical identity theft leads to the appearance of a collection account. This occurs when an impostor uses your identity to obtain medical services or treatment, but has no intention of paying the bill(s).

4.      Greater credit utilization ratio

Another significant piece that counts toward your credit score is the amount of debt you carry. When the scammer “goes shopping” and adds charges to your account (unnoticed), your overall amount of debt rises. Even if the scammer opens a phone plan or house utility but doesn’t pay the bill, the provider will report it to the credit bureau. A negative ding will appear on your report, damaging your credit score. A continuously increasing amount of debt will continuously drop your credit score. The higher your credit utilization ratio, or the amount of your available credit that you use, the lower your credit score will fall.

5.      Higher Auto Insurance Rates

In every state except California and Massachusetts, auto insurers utilize your credit score to set rates. A low credit score can cause a 20 to 50% increase in auto insurance premiums. Even if you have a depressed credit score, an insurer can’t reject you, but they do have the ability to hike up your premiums without an explanation.

Nobody wants to find out that their identity was stolen, but it can and does happen. Being knowledgeable and prepared as to how it can affect you is crucial. If you’ve been the victim of an identity thief, Veitengruber Law can help you deal with the emotional and mental frustration as well as the financial damage that has been done. No matter how low your credit score has gotten – we will guide you through getting it back to a respectable number again.

Equifax Data Breach 2017: Were You Affected?

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Unless you have zero credit history and no report exists on file for you with any of the credit reporting bureaus, you may have been affected by a recent security breach at Equifax.

Up to 150 million people (in the US alone) had their private, personal, identifying information exposed and potentially misused. This breach in security occurred only with Equifax. Neither of the other two credit reporting agencies, Trans Union or Experian, were affected.

What happened during the Equifax breach?

Between the months of May-July 2017, hackers were able to bypass some of the cyber-security that was in place at that time at Equifax. They gained access to millions of pieces of personal information, including:

  • Full names and aliases
  • Dates of birth
  • Social Security numbers
  • Current and past addresses
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Credit card information

Even if you haven’t noticed any strange charges popping up on any of your credit cards, it’s important that you take action if you haven’t already done so. If any of your identifying information was accessed, the first step to righting the wrong is knowledge.

How can I find out if my information was accessed?

Although the general public opinion of Equifax dropped as soon as news of the security breach hit the airwaves, they deserve kudos for initiating a plan of action for those who may have been affected. They created a program called TrustedID Premier that gives consumers one year of free credit monitoring.

Visit http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. There, you’ll be able to read details about the security breach; you’ll also be able to enroll in the credit protection and monitoring program.

With two clicks, you’ll learn if your personal information was accessed, or “potentially impacted.” From there, you should move forward and initiate your enrollment in the credit monitoring program. Again, you’ll be given an easy prompt to “Enroll Now,” after you’ve determined if your information may have been affected.

How can I feel safe with a company that experienced such a substantial breach?

While you do have to give your name, address and part of your social security number in order to verify your identity, you can feel secure as long as you are using a secure computer as well as an encrypted network.

Is there anything else I can do to protect my personal information?

Aside from enrolling in the TrustedID Premier program, you should carefully read through your credit reports in their entirety. Go beyond checking your Equifax report; order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. You can request all three reports at one convenient site: http://www.annualcreditreport.com.

Other potential steps to protecting your private and sensitive data include:

  • Freezing your credit
  • Placing a fraud alert on your credit 
  • Preventing tax identity theft – A lesser known form of identity theft, tax identity theft, can occur if your social security number was stolen. File your 2017 taxes as soon as possible so that no one else can fraudulently claim your tax refund.
  • Continue to carefully monitor all of your bank accounts and credit cards and be on the lookout for any suspicious charges.

If your personal information was accessed and you discover false information on your credit report or unrecognized charges on a credit card, contact a NJ credit repair attorney immediately to protect your financial reputation from incurring any further damage.

 

Image: “Broken Lock” by Chad Cooper – licensed under CC 2.0

Can I Sue the Person Who Stole my Identity?

Stories of identity theft are on the rise in this country, which comes as a surprise to those who have become rather comfortable with trusting various forms of technology in every facet of their lives. Indeed, our techno-centric lives have contributed to the creation of tech savvy criminals who can hack virtually any computer system or device.

Although it seemed like identity theft and account hacking were less prevalent for a few years, accounts of stolen personal identifying information are now on the rise again. Hackers have learned their way around firewalls, safety features and encryption settings designed to prevent this very crime.

It seems like nearly every day that we hear about a friend’s Facebook, email or other online communication/social media account being hacked. While those used to be more of a nuisance than a danger – we can now shop right from our Facebook and other social media profiles. This means a hacker can shop as you if they are able to gain access to your account(s).

Additionally, there have been far too many reports of corporations experiencing data breaches – nearly everyone has received at least one notification letter in the mail detailing what information of theirs was potentially stolen during their recent cyber attack. Even giants like Target and Equifax have been victims of cyber crime.

What would you do if you discovered that your personal information – that being your name, birth date, social security number, home address, and other identifiers was stolen during one of these data breaches and used by another person in order to create accounts in your name? The potential for damage to your credit score is huge. What recourse do you have?

While it can be a primal instinct to want to sue the pants off the person who stole your information, that isn’t always easy to do. However, if you are able to pinpoint the criminal in question (or the corporation who allowed your personal data to be leaked) – it is possible to sue for up to three times the damages you experienced.

As soon as you realize that another person has been using your personal information to make purchases or perform other actions while posing as you – make a police report at your local police station. The sooner your identity theft matter is on record, the better. It’s important not to simply ignore it and hope it goes away, because you definitely want to avoid hitting the statute of limitations on a crime like this. Reports show that the average identity theft victim spends an average of two years trying to prove their own identity, getting charges removed from credit cards and fixing credit reports that now contain false information.

For more information about New Jersey identity theft and the statute of limitations on such crimes in our state, read about the Wrongful Impersonation statute (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17) and contact a certified and experienced NJ credit repair attorney to help you right the wrongs that have been done.

My Ex Is Using My Credit Cards after Our Divorce!

Unfortunately, divorce almost always brings with it some degree of contention. Regardless of what the former couple disagrees about, it usually comes down to a “he said, she said” type of dispute.

Sometimes, however, there is legal recourse for post-divorce behavior that simply crosses the line. Take, for example, a woman who, upon setting out to clean up her credit report and boost her score, discovered that her former husband had been using her credit cards quite liberally well after they split up.

While, yes, there can be a bit of ambiguity when it comes to using shared cards in the time period after a married couple decides to part but before the Final Judgement of Divorce has been entered, the law speaks loud and clear after the divorce is final.

Any use of your ex-husband or ex-wife’s credit cards (that are in his or her name only) after you divorce is specifically disallowed. In fact, it’s against the law and reeks of identity theft.

Do some married couples use each other’s credit cards while they’re married? They do – even if the credit card in question is not a shared card and only officially “belongs” to one party. This is legal if the non-card-holder is named as an authorized user on the account.

Example: Husband goes out of town for the weekend and leaves his credit card for his wife to use for shopping. As long as she is an authorized user on his account, this is perfectly legal. However, she must sign her own name on any receipts as opposed to forging her husband’s signature.

Even if you’re currently happily married, it is generally considered unwise for you to utilize your spouse’s credit card (that is in his or her name only) if you aren’t listed as a user of the credit card. Some couples do it anyway because most merchants assume that the cardholder gave permission to the spouse to use their card. Simply calling your credit card company and adding your spouse as an authorized user is easy to do and can eliminate any potential problems.

After you are officially divorced from your spouse and are holding the Final Judgement of Divorce in your hands, there should be exactly zero further use of the other party’s credit card. This is true even if you were listed as an authorized user while you were married. Should your spouse forget to remove your name from their authorized users list, this does not in any way mean that you may continue using your ex’s credit after divorce.

An ex-spouse utilizing your credit card falls under the category of a criminal offense: identity theft. It is no different than a complete stranger stealing and using your credit card(s). If this has happened to you, the next step you should take is filing a police report and sending a copy of the police report to the credit reporting agencies. Working with a credit repair specialist will help you get the debt removed from your card and you may even be successful in making your ex pay for the charges.

Are You Committing Financial Child Abuse?

Although it may be something you’ve never considered, there have been many reports of what is now being called “financial child abuse.” One of the easiest ways to commit financial child abuse is to use your child’s Social Security number instead of your own.

Why would anyone use their child’s Social Security number?

Typically, the perpetrator has found himself with a significant amount of debt that may include wage garnishment. What this means is that any time the adult in question attempts to get a job, his debts follow him and his creditors will be able to take a portion of his paycheck.

Because of this, the adult decides to use his child’s Social Security number when applying for a new job. Oftentimes, the father and the child in question have the same name, making this kind of activity slightly more difficult to detect by law enforcement.

Is it a crime to use your child’s Social Security number?

Not only is it illegal, but to do so would be committing a number of serious crimes including:

  • Identity theft
  • Fraud
  • Tax fraud
  • Social Security fraud
  • Theft

These crimes will almost certainly prevent the adult in question from ever discharging any of his debts in a bankruptcy in the future, and in addition, he may face prison time and thousands of dollars in fines.

Why is it a crime? Who is it really hurting?

The reason it is a crime to use a child’s Social Security number to obtain employment or a loan, etc. is because regardless of whose Social Security number is being “borrowed,” it is illegal to do so. End of story. A Social Security number is not something that can be borrowed, shared, or changed.

It can affect the child in question by tacking on Social Security wages to his SSN that he may have to answer for later in life if the activity is not stopped and reversed. This can cause the child serious legal problems involving Social Security fraud, even though he had no knowledge of the crime being carried out.

What is a better solution to my debt-related problems?

It is always a good idea to avoid committing a crime in order to get out of paying your debts. The reasons? You’re going to end up getting in serious trouble, you may go to jail, you will owe more money in the end, you will cause conflict within your family, and most importantly: There is a better solution!

You can erase the debts that you have. You do not have to borrow someone else’s Social Security number to get around your creditors. It is understandable and admirable that you want to get a job to support your family. Just don’t resort to committing a crime that you will regret later in order to do so.

Filing for NJ bankruptcy will wipe out most or all of the debts that you have racked up (with some exclusions) – allowing you to have a relatively clean credit report and no debts that will be taken from your wages.

Will a bankruptcy appear on my credit report?

It is impossible to avoid a bankruptcy showing up on your credit history, however, taking the responsibility for your debts and doing the right thing is viewed much more favorably by employers and lenders. You will have a much easier time getting a job with a bankruptcy on your record than if you had been convicted of fraud and identity theft.

The bankruptcy will disappear off of your credit report within seven to ten years depending on which chapter you file. Committing a crime like identity theft or Social Security fraud will remain on your criminal history record for the rest of your life. Which sounds more desirable to you? Do the right thing – file for bankruptcy and get rid of your debts so that you can move forward with getting that job and supporting your family the right way.

USPS Mail Identity Theft: What You Need to Know

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As our world becomes more and more saturated with technology, it’s now possible to do almost anything online. You can check your bank account balance, transfer money and pay your bills. Heck, you can even run a business online these days.

Even as we move deeper and deeper into the Information Age, there are still a number of people (and companies) who send and receive important information the “old fashioned way” – via the US Postal Service. Most of us still check the mailbox regularly, and it’s fair to say that the majority of Americans receive at least several pieces of “snail mail” every day.

What, then, should you make of your mailbox being empty for several days in a row? While not receiving any mail isn’t really that unusual once in awhile – if the trend continues beyond a single consecutive day, you should look into the reason.

As it turns out, there is a new identity theft scam making its way around the country that combines the use of both technology and old fashioned “snail mail” to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. The first clue that you may have been a victim is simply an empty mailbox.

While you may celebrate when there’s no mail (after all, no mail means no bills, right?) – the real reason may be quite sinister, and one that requires immediate attention. Ignoring your lack of mail may lead to a ruined credit report and a plunging credit score.

Here’s how this particular identity theft scheme works:

  • The identity thief typically applies for a credit card in your name, using your personal information, including your mailing address.
  • The thief then uses the USPS website to place a hold on your mail. The thief pretends to be you, but no authorization is ever required.
  • You stop receiving mail, as your identity thief plans to act as you and retrieve your mail from the post office when the credit card arrives. Again, no identification is required for them to pick up your mail from the USPS.
  • If the thief is successful, they will have a credit card in your name. The mail hold will be removed so that you will begin receiving mail at home again, and (they hope) you will be none the wiser.

This identity theft scheme has been just recently brought to light, and the lack of security surrounding the USPS electronic hold system is being investigated, according to representatives from the postal service.

In this technology-driven world, we all have to prove our identity online multiple times a day – even signing into Twitter can be difficult if you use a different computer or device. Accessing our most valuable personal information, (bank accounts, PayPal accounts and credit card statements) requires that we prove our identity through the use of complex passwords and security questions. Hopefully, the US Postal Service will soon have similar security measures in place in order to prevent just anyone from picking up “their” new credit card, all the while pretending to be you.

Until then, we want you to be aware of this problem so that your identity is not used by someone else. If this has happened to you (or you suspect that it has), acting quickly is of the utmost importance. Report the fraudulent activity, file a police report, and get in touch with a New Jersey credit repair attorney immediately.

Image credit: Matt

My SS Number was Compromised; What are my Options?

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There have been many reports in the news lately about personal information being stolen or compromised. This can happen in a number of ways – not just via POS locations in big box stores, which are the stories most often broadcast in the news and across the internet.

Be Aware: How Your Information can be Accessed

Aside from the aforementioned “skimming” that happens when identity thieves use tiny devices that steal your information when you use your credit card at a store or restaurant, there are a number of other ways in which your personal information can become stolen.

  • Pick-pocketing: Perhaps the most old-fashioned form of identity theft, it still happens today! When you are outside of your home and carrying a purse, be sure to choose one with zippers or another secure closure. Keep your bag close to your body at all times. Men (and women) carrying wallets – find a better place to keep it than your back pocket.
  • Mail Tampering: Although it may be hard to believe, there are people out there who will go from mailbox to mailbox, looking for anything that contains your credit card number(s) or other identifying information.
  • Trash pickers: This is the reason we advise our clients to shred all important papers before placing them in the trash or recycling receptacle. Identity thieves make a practice of digging through outdoor trash bins and trash dumps, looking for anything from receipts to your Social Security Number.
  • Information Phishing: Much different from Fresh Water Fishing, this type of phishing involves a fraudulent email message made to look official, prompting you to respond with some very sensitive information.
  • Wireless tapping: Identity thieves are often very technologically savvy, and can easily tap into a wireless internet connection that is not secured. Make it a practice to only use secured wireless networks to keep your information safe.

If your Social Security Number becomes compromised, you have reason to be concerned. Your SSN is essentially your personal identification number, and once stolen, thieves can do a lot of damage to you. This is even truer for business owners who depend on their ability to keep their business running.

Often times, a business owner’s Employer Identification Number will be linked with his/her Social Security Number. Once their SSN has been compromised, the business owner will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles attempting to get loans as are often needed to run a business.

The first step to fixing a compromised Social Security Number is to check with your insurance company about identity theft coverage. This may help you recover any damages that have already been incurred.

Business owners can request that their EIN, LLC and SSN be separated. A new Employer Identification Number can be assigned. You can also talk to Social Security and explain that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Request that a new Social Security Number be assigned to you and that your old SSN be cancelled.

 

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