A Fresh Start
Did you resolve to lose a few pounds? Maybe get to the gym more often, or take some long walks this year? Paint the house, save some money, or maybe even take that much-needed vacation?
The new year is a great time for a fresh start, time to make a few resolutions or even begin the hard work of paying off those Christmas bills.
Each Christmas it seems like we all spend a little more than we realized; and those January bills are a bit of a surprise. But it could be worse: imagine if someone else were using your credit card to have a great Christmas of their own.
Any time you use your credit card or debit card, you run the risk of having your identity stolen, but during the holidays, things get even riskier. Retail stores hire temporary employees who have access to your credit information; and scammers take advantage of the high volume of sales—as well as people’s holiday generosity—with Internet scams, false websites, and security intrusions into retail databases. This is why there is no better time to check your credit than after the holiday season.
The Better Business Bureau says that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can receive one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Call 877-322-8228 or go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com. The advantage of ordering all three reports at the same time is that you can compare them. Another approach is to order reports throughout the year to check for changes.
We have all seen those “free credit report” commercials, but it’s important to know that www.AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for free annual credit reports under federal law. Please note: AnnualCreditReport.com will not approach you via email, telemarketing or through direct mail solicitations. So a word of advice: if you’re interested in requesting your free report, go directly to the website instead of clicking on links you may see to get there. The Internet is full of false ads, spyware and false websites, and clicking on anything free can quickly fill your computer with unwanted viruses.
The AnnualCreditReport.com website not only provides access to your credit report, it also has some great information on how to protect yourself from identity theft. The first step is to know what to look for:
- Credit card charges you don't recognize
- Calls or letters about things you didn't buy
- Bills you don’t recognize
- New credit cards or statements for accounts you didn't open
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason
- Information on your credit reports you don't recognize, such as accounts or addresses
If you think you’re the victim of identity theft, you should place an initial fraud alert on your file as soon as possible. You can do this online at:
Equifax - www.equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance
Experian - www.experian.com/fraud
TransUnion - www.transunion.com/fraud
Experts recommend that you contact the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents to each company where debt in your name has been established and keep copies for your records.
Always ask for verification about disputed accounts and close all accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
It’s very important to complete a crime report with local law enforcement and report identity theft to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Your report helps us and other law enforcement officials across the country investigate identity thefts. You can find out more, by visiting https://help.consumerfinance.gov/app/creditreporting/ask
Remember, anyone can have their identity stolen. The experience can be intrusive and disturbing. There is no better time than the New Year to watch out for those who want to use your good credit.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.
By: Chris Dewey - Chief of Police