Credit Repair and Identity Theft: Eight Ways to Protect Yourself

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The face of crime has gone high-tech in recent years. The Federal Trade (FTC) commission reported a quarter-million cases of identity theft last year alone, and statistics are rising. In a world of instant access and online billing, the need for additional information safeguards is imperative.

Identity theft is among the leading causes of credit issues in the U.S. The FTC reported a half-million cases in 2010 alone. As identity theft climbs, it is important to take steps to protect yourself. Follow the tips below to get started.

1. Guard your Social Security Number (SSN). Your SSN is the key to your government identity. If you do nothing else to protect your credit, guard this number at all costs. SSN theft could result years of credit repair struggles.

2. Keep your belongings close. A stolen wallet or purse could wreak havoc on your credit score. Valuable information on your driver’s license and other IDs could open the doors to additional woes. Keep a protective hand on your valuables in crowded places. The ramifications could be more complicated than cancelling your credit cards.

3. Beware of the checkout line. Identity theft strikes when you least expect it—the checkout line, for example. Many thieves get their info from peering over the shoulder of the customer in front of them. Keep an eye on the cashier as well. Some have been known to make a copy of your credit info when you aren’t looking.

4. Count your checks and credit cards. If #2 comes to fruition, protect your credit score immediately. Go through your wallet and make sure no checks or credit cards are missing. Call your bank and ask about any charges made while your wallet was lost. If necessary, cancel your cards and place a hold on missing checks. Credit repair is facilitated by open communication with your creditors; keep the lines open.

5. Don’t trust the garbage man. Official documents contain a lot of valuable information. If you have decided to go paperless, be sure to shred any private papers before throwing them away. Identity thieves are not above dumpster diving, and you never know who could be waiting with the garbage man.

6. Keep tabs on your hotel key card. Little-known-fact: hotel key cards store more than your room number. These seemingly harmless pieces of plastic actually contain your personal check-in information. If you forget to return them to the front desk, make sure to destroy them right away.

7. Review your credit reports. The key to a healthy credit score is responsibility. Take the time to review your credit reports every few months. Look for suspicious or unknown charges. Identity theft can go unnoticed without proper attention.

Identity theft has the power to ruin your credit score, but consumer protection laws offer helpful credit repair avenues. Mitigate your risk ahead of time by keeping your personal information close at hand. It could make all the difference.