Old School Identity Theft
When people think of identity theft, what usually comes to mind is credit card fraud. Some faceless hacker or con artist gets your credit card number or even opens one up in your name then racks up thousands of dollars in charges. This has become a far too common occurrence in our modern, digital times, but let’s talk about another kind of identity theft that also happens and is far more low-tech.
We all know not to leave our wallets unattended because someone could steal money or credit cards, but what about your driver's license? If a criminal gets your ID they can impersonate you. This has implications that starts with accessing your bank account and ends with committing crimes in your name. During a crime spree, identity thieves not only pretend to be you to get to your money, they do so in order to lead police down a wrong path by flashing the stolen license, so when all the clues are followed they lead back to you. These mix ups are usually figured out, but very often not before the innocent victim is arrested for the crime.
In order to protect you and you identity, here are some tips for you if you’ve lost your wallet:
Immediately contact your bank and cancel any missing checks, debit, or credit cards. Most banks issue cards with a zero liability on fraudulent charges, but it’s best to report it promptly.
File A Police Report. To a lot of people this may seem like overkill, but it’s good to have a written record of the loss.
Get a free credit report. By law, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus (Experian, Innovis, Equifax, and Trans Union). You can get it from annualcreditreport.com.
Put out a fraud alert. If you contact one of the major credit bureaus, you can put out a fraud alert to prevent future identity theft. The alert stays active for 90 days, and if you tell one bureau, they are legally required to tell the others. If you have a police report, you can have them extend the alert for seven years.
Freeze your credit. In most cases, this isn’t necessary, but if you are worried about identity theft, this should make it extremely hard for thieves to open lines of credit in your name. By calling the credit bureaus and requesting a credit freeze, you keep any creditors from being able to see your credit history. Since creditors won’t give out credit lines without being able to gauge the risk, it keeps criminal from ruining your credit until you call the credit bureaus to unfreeze your file.