First let me tell you that I understand the stressful and confusing worry of Identity theft. A week ago my friend alerted me that she received a charge on her credit card statement this month that didn't belong to her, from Belgium! She hadn't been to Belgium since her vacation trip over a year ago. Much to her surprise she was being charged $275 for a purchase she hadn't made! I told her the same things I'm about to tell you.
You need to be prepared.
If you're someone who uses your credit card for either pleasure or business then there's a pretty good chance that you've missed some purchases that are incorrect or purchases that just don't belong to you. What I suggest is to keep a highlighter and highlight all of the abnormalities in your credit card statement as well as keeping all of your receipts so you can scan over them and double check your markings. By doing this, you will be able to view incorrect charges you can call your credit card company ASAP and get the problem handled. Don't forget to check all of your other accounts this way.
React with lightning reflexes.
If you get that knee shake inducing email or letter telling you that your information has been compromised -- then reacting as quickly as you can is definitely Key.
The first step in this journey is to contact the three major credit reporting companies, Experian, Equifax and Transunion and obtain your credit report. After you review your report call them. Tell them you've been a victim of identity theft/fraud. After stating this, you will then be given the option to put a fraud alert on your credit report.
Next, ensure that your credit card company is made aware of the fraud (if you don't do that then they can't help you). Next, take action to reverse the damages that the fraud has caused. This is the point where you start developing your good prevention habits for the future. Remember, that the sooner you file your claim, the easier it should be.
Stay aware and vigilant
OK! So your claims are submitted, your money has been reimbursed and you have fraud protection set up now. So you must be safe right? Wrong! Getting complacent at this point would be a big downfall. Continue to monitor your credit and be wary of calls, letters or emails that claim to be from companies that have access to your personal information.
Staying on top of your credit card statements as often as you can and always knowing exactly what your records show is the most important step of being aware of your charges. And remember to check your credit reports at least two times a year to make sure that nothing on your report is inaccurate. You also may find it helpful to sign up for a service to protect your credit or monitor it. You can find help at bestIDtheftcompanys.com.
My number one credit rule is be aware of what is being reported about you. Because if you are not checking your credit, who is? If you do not have time to do this yourself, you should really consider having your credit monitored. This will also help you by sending you alerts whenever there is a change in your accounts.
Follow Jeanne Kelly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Creditscoop