As of December 5, 2010, the holiday season already spurred $16.8 billion in online purchases, putting consumers credit card information at risk. Home invasions are also big on the list of crimes during the busy holiday season, placing personal information in the hands of criminals. The New York Times reports that military personnel are at increased risks of identity theft due to the government’s continued use of service members’ social security numbers as personal identifiers. Although you may take all of the right precautions in safeguarding your bank accounts, credit cards and social security numbers, the Grinch seems to always be a step ahead.
Just because the Grinch steals your personal information, he doesn’t have the power to take away the spirit of the holiday season. The Ohio Attorney General has prepared an Identity Theft Repair Kit to help consumers limit the damage that is created by identity theft, including, among others, the following steps:
- File a police report;
- Review your credit report with each of the three major bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion;
- Close accounts opened without your consent;
- Report fraudulent charges on open accounts to that company’s fraud department;
- Close any accounts that have been accessed without your authorization;
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report;
- Notify the credit bureaus in writing of any unauthorized credit inquiries appearing on your report;
- Apply for an Identity Theft Verification PASSPORT through the Ohio Attorney General;
- Notify the Social Security Administration if your number has been stolen; and
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission .
Even if you are not aware of a specific incident causing the compromise of your personal information, it is advisable to check your credit report on an annual basis. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act you are entitled to a free credit report on an annual basis from AnnualCreditReport.com. While I doubt that the Grinch who steals your identity will have a change of heart, if you take corrective action immediately, you will be able to keep singing after the holidays are over!