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What should I do if I think I may be a victim of identity theft?

The discovery of identity theft is bound to be a very anxious and stressful experience and it can certainly wreak havoc on your finances and credit. If you suspect identity theft, act quickly to minimize any negative consequences.

Here are 5 key steps to take to stop an identity thief in their tracks.

1) Put a fraud alert on your credit reports – To place a 90-day fraud alert on all three of your credit reports, you only need to contact one of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian,Equifax or TransUnion). When you place the initial alert, the agency will automatically notify the other two for you. Be sure to request a copy of your credit reports to ensure there aren’t any transactions you don’t recognize.

2) Call the fraud department at the companies and financial institutions where you know the identity thief used your personal information. Part of this step may include freezing your accounts that have been compromised. For example, If you know your credit card was stolen, report the theft to the credit card issuer. If your checkbook or debit card was stolen, contact your bank.

3) Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). File an Identity Theft Affidavit and create an Identity Theft Report. The FTC will provide you with information about what to do next, depending on what type of fraud was committed.

4) File a police report. Contact your local law enforcement office and report the theft. Be sure to get a copy of the police report and/or the report number. Both your police report and the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit combine to create your Identity Theft Report.

5) Report identity theft to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by submitting a complaint. Your complaint helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations. Visit the CFPB’s website to find out more information on submitting an identity theft complaint.

Remember, identity theft can have a negative effect on your credit score. For instance, if a thief opens three new credit cards in your name, the inquiries can each lower your score, the credit card balances will affect your utilization ratio, and the payment history (or failure to pay) can have a big impact on your credit rating.

The key thing to remember is that identity theft hurts your credit the most when it goes unnoticed. Once you catch on, you can take steps to shut down fraudulent accounts and clean up your credit.

If you have questions or were a victim of identity theft and need help cleaning up your credit report, THD Credit Consulting can help. Click here to schedule a free consultation today.

-Erik Kaplan

What is the dark web? How it can threaten a consumer like you!

What exactly is the dark web?  It is a network of untraceable online activity and websites on the internet. They cannot be found using search engines and to access them you need to use specific software, configurations or have authorization. It is accessed by using masked IP addresses to maintain anonymity for users and site owners. This way, people who use the dark web for illegal purposes can’t be traced.
 
Because of its hidden nature the dark web can be a haven for all kinds of illegal activity. For example, one can buy credit card numbers, hacked Netflix accounts, login credentials to a bank account or prepaid debit cards etc.  
 
How to protect yourself from the threats of the dark web:
 
While there’s no fail-proof way to keep your information off the dark web, you can be vigilant about looking for red flags and protecting your accounts, including:
 
  • Use different passwords for every online account. This way, if your password is stolen, only one of your accounts will be compromised.
  • Monitor your accounts and statements for any information that looks off.
  • Use passwords that are considered strong i.e. has a mix of different types of characters (numbers, symbols, lower and upper case) to make the password harder to crack.
  • Change passwords often.
  • Use Experian’s Free Dark Web Scan to see if your Social Security number, phone number, or email address is on the dark web.
  • Monitor your credit report on a regular basis, so you can easily identify fraud and take immediate action.
 If you have questions or would like to work with us to improve your credit reports and raise your credit score, schedule a free consultation today.
 
-Erik Kaplan

Will Authorized User Status Help You Build Credit?

While it’s certainly not a substitute for building up your own credit history, being an authorized user can be a good way to give your credit a boost if you have little or no credit history.
 
Here’s what you need to know about an authorized user:
 
What exactly is an authorized user?
 
Being an authorized user means you can use someone else’s credit card in your name. You can make purchases and use the card as if it were your own, but you’re not the primary account holder.
 
As an authorized user, you’re not legally responsible to pay the credit card bill or any of the debts, as this is the responsibility of the primary account holder.
 
What effect does this have on your credit?
 
If the credit card provider reports authorized users to the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax) then the primary account holder’s strong payment history (on-time payments) can have a positive effect on your credit. In addition, if the account holder has a low utilization rate on this card, that too could be a positive for you.
 
On the other hand, if the primary account holder misses’ payments and has a high utilization rate, then this can be a negative for you. Before you make this decision, be sure there is a potential upside as putting yourself on the wrong person’s account could have a detrimental impact on your scores.
 
Being an authorized user might not increase your chances of getting approved for credit cards and loans in the future, as lenders checking your credit history will want to see that you’ve managed your own credit accounts responsibly. However, in the right situation you can start building a credit history all while having the convenience of a credit card in your wallet.
 
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free consultation, click here.
 

-Erik Kaplan

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