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Identity theft is a sad fact of life for far too many of us every single day. We live in a technological society and we should have enough safeguards, but the exact opposite is true. What can you as a consumer do to protect yourself, how do you even know you are a victim of identify theft in the first place? 

Two major red flags where your credit card is concerned must make you react immediately. When you receive your credit card statement, check it immediately and if there are charges for items you know you never bought it means identity theft has taken place. Another sign is when you receive a call or a letter from a company to tell you that the account you had applied for has been approved or accepted, and you never applied for such an account. 

Identity theft takes place when another person uses your personal information such as your pension number/social security number or credit card number without your permission and thus committing fraud. If this happens you should immediately contact the fraud department of any of the main credit reference agencies such as Experian, Equifax or Trans Union and have them place a fraud alert on your credit reports, as well as having a victim’s statement placed on your credit file. This ensures that all creditors will call you before approving any credit or sundry services. Next, you must review your reports. 

Credit alerts will help prevent an identity thief from using your name to try to open accounts. The company will contact you to verify that you are applying for the account. Once it has been established that your fraud alert is valid, the credit reference agency will alert the other agencies who will put an alert on your report with them as well. The frustrating thing about credit alerts is that when you legitimately want to open an account there will be delays, as the company first has to verify with you that you want to open such an account.  

You have two options to choose from when you want to do a credit alert. Initial alert will remain on your credit reports for 90 days. During this time, you will be unable to get any form of instant credit, as your details must first be verified. A benefit is that when you have a credit alert placed on your file, you are entitled to receive a free credit report from each of the three different credit reference agencies.  

If you choose extended fraud alert, this will remain on your credit file for seven years, but you do have the option to have the alert removed whenever you want to during the seven-year period. You will have to prove your identity with corroborating information to do this. This is a safety precaution to prevent a fraudster from removing credit alerts from consumers’ accounts.  

You must remember that credit alerts are a tool to help prevent identify theft, but this cannot protect you when a thief uses your existing accounts and credit cards, nor will it protect you if the thief opens a new account that does not need a credit check.

Credit in Minutes Tip #1

Stay on top of your credit report. Most credit reports contain errors. Make sure you check your credit report every year (you get one free credit report every twelve months) and if there are errors make sure to challenge them with the reporting credit agency. Credit agencies are required to investigate each and every challenge that gets reported.

Credit in Minutes Tip #2

Just because you qualify for all of those credit cards does not mean you should get them. A person with too many credit cards looks sketchy in the eyes of a potential creditor. Think of it this way: if a person is financially stable does he or she need ten different credit cards? Wouldn’t just one or two suffice?

Credit in Minutes Tip #3

The best way to raise your credit score is to make all of your payments on time. It sounds too simple to be true, but that’s all there really is to it. Staying out of debt and/or making all of your debt payments on time will keep your score up where it should be.

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