Five Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

Identity theft victims reported losing more than $15 billion in 2014. That’s more than the combined losses from burglary, motor vehicle theft and other property theft in the same period. While it’s no surprise that identity theft can leave you feeling vulnerable, there are things you can do to take some control.

Step 1: Order your credit report when you realize you’ve become a victim. You need to quickly find out about any errors showing up on your report. Go to annualcreditreport.com for free copies of your report from all three nationwide credit-reporting companies-Experian, Equifax and Transunion.

If you see any errors or fraudulent charges, report them to the credit reporting companies right away. They will investigate those items and then forward the information to the business that reported it. The business has 30 days to respond.

If the business providing the loan finds an error, it must notify the credit reporting company so your file can be corrected. If your credit changes because of the business’ investigation, the reporting company will send you a letter with the results.

Step 2: Place a fraud alert to make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. Call any one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies and ask them to put an initial fraud alert on your credit report. They must contact the other two companies about your alert.

Equifax

1-800-525-6285

Experian

1-800-397-3742

TransUnion

1-800-680-7289

While there’s an alert on your report, anytime a business performs a credit inquiry they will need to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. This may require contacting you, so be sure you’ve updated your credit report with your current contact information. The alert will stay on your report for 90 days and allows you to order an additional free copy of your report from each of the three credit reporting companies.

Step 3: Consider a credit freeze. A Credit Freeze, also known as a Security Freeze, gives you maximum control over who has access to your credit. It can stop a thief from opening new accounts in your name because lenders and other creditors won’t be able to get your credit report.

With a Credit Freeze in place, even you will have to take special steps to apply for credit. You can still open new accounts, apply for a job, rent an apartment, buy insurance, refinance your mortgage, or do anything else that requires your credit report. But businesses will need to verify your identity so they may need to contact you and you will have to call the reporting company to lift the freeze in order for the business to review your report. Again, be sure they have your most current information through your credit report.

A few things to know: Due to stringent laws, you’ll have to contact each reporting company separately to place a Credit Freeze. Also, placing a credit freeze does not affect your credit score. Finally, the cost depends on where you live. If you are 65 or older, or a victim of identity theft and submit a valid investigative or incident report, complaint with a law enforcement agency or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the fee will be waived.

Step 4: File an Identity Theft Report. An Identity Theft Report is a great weapon. You can use it to get fraudulent information removed from your credit report; stop a company from collecting debts that result from identity theft-or from selling the debt to another company for collection. You can also use it to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report, and to get information about accounts the identity thief opened or misused.

Filing an Identity Theft Report is simple: Submit a complaint about the theft to the FTC. When you finish writing all the details, print a copy of the report. It will print as an Identity Affidavit.

File a police report about your identity theft, and get a copy of the police report or the report number. (Make sure to bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and attach it to your police report).

Some credit reporting companies may ask for more information or documentation than the Identity Theft Report includes. It depends on the policies of the credit reporting company and the business that sent the information about you to the reporting company.

Step 5: Report fraud on existing accounts. For any of your accounts that show fraudulent charges, contact the business right away. Explain that you’re an identity theft victim. Close the account and follow their reporting process. You can ask if they’ll accept your Identity Theft Report. Additionally, write to the fraud department of each business. By law, they have to review your letter, investigate your complaint, and tell you the results of their investigation. If the information is wrong, the business must tell the credit reporting company. Make sure to ask for a letter from the business confirming that it removed the fraudulent information.

On any credit card or bank account that remains open, take steps to protect yourself. Change your password and place code words on accounts that allow them. Code words are offered on some accounts as an added level of security. You can typically choose your code word. You might consider using something only you would know and is not public knowledge. Finally, continually monitor your accounts, keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity.

 

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How to Get Divorce Legal Advice

download (1)If you are one of the millions of Americans going through a divorce, you know that it can be a tricky process. There is more to a divorce than just deciding that the marriage isn’t working. With these helpful legal tips, your separation process can be made easier. In this article, we will discuss how to get divorce legal advice. Let’s begin.

First off, there are certain requirements you and your spouse must meet before you file for divorce; these can be found in your state’s divorce laws. These laws include information on issues such as children custody, spousal support, and grounds for filing for divorce. They vary from state to state, so make sure you have all the information you need.

Divorces can be very expensive, but do not have to be. If you divorce is uncontested, it will be less costly than a contested one. Costs include not only attorney fees, but the cost of filing the divorce in court and any other miscellaneous expenses. In order to begin the divorce process, you must file a petition for divorce at your local court clerk. You may do this either with a divorce attorney or without one. If there are any complicated issues relating to your divorce, and you can afford an attorney, one is certainly recommended. You can find reputable legal help in regards to divorces through the yellow pages.

Make sure you choose an attorney that is not only in your price range, as attorney fees accumulate quickly, but one that you can trust. Professional legal advice is vital in complicated divorce cases. If there are children involved, an attorney can help negotiate custody issues. Also, an attorney is helpful during divorce settlement negotiations because dividing marital assets can get heated and complicated.

A good divorce attorney will be able to guide you through these, and other, difficult aspects of filing for divorce, and can also answer any questions you have regarding the divorce process.

Are you and your partner considering a divorce? Do you desperately want to dissolve your marriage without unnecessary stress or conflict? Consider divorce mediation and avoid the adversarial divorce process.

 

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How to Find a Right Divorce Attorney Easily

A divorce attorney is a family law attorney. That means they practice representing cases that concern families, and personal relationships that pertain to families. When a relationship that you are involved in dissolves you need a family law attorney to make sure that the decisions you make regarding the division of property and assets is in your best interest.

Finding a divorce attorney to represent you in the dissolution of a marriage is not as easy as picking up a phone book and calling the first lawyer that you find listed there. To find a qualified lawyer you are going to have to do a little research, and a little interviewing.

Steps to follow while hunting a lawyer to handle your divorce

1. Write down all of the pertinent information the lawyer will need to know about you, your spouse, and your impending divorce. Be sure to include a list of all assets the two of you own. List any grievances you have against your spouse like infidelity issues, or spousal abuse problems.

2. Make a list of lawyers that you have heard of from friends, relatives, and other advertising sources. Make appointments with at least three of those law firms to discuss your situation. These consultations are usually free of charges.

3. Make a list of things you would like your lawyer to have. Include a compatible personality, time to work on your case, close proximity, affordable fees or easy payment plans. When you go to the consultation visits rate the lawyers according to the things you have on this list. When you have visited all of the firms look over this list and see which lawyers met the most of the things you wanted.

4. Consider the amount of experience the lawyer has in the kind of cases that you have. You want to hire a lawyer who is knowledgeable in the laws that pertain to the type of circumstances you are facing.

5. Call the Better Business Bureau and the local Chamber of Commerce to see if the firm has any complaints against them, and if they have had complaints how they resolved the issue.

6. Ask the attorney how full their case load is. You want a popular attorney, but you do not want to retain someone that has a case load that is so heavy they will not have time to pay close attention to your interests.

7. Make sure that you feel comfortable with the lawyer. You have to work closely with this person and you need to be able to get along with them, trust them, and they need to have offices close enough that you can go to see them when needed.

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How to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft can wreak havoc on your credit and your life. Because of this I get a lot of questions asking how to prevent identity theft. The first thing to understand is that there is no sure fire way to absolutely protect yourself from identity theft. No matter what you do there will always be some amount of risk that you could become a victim. There are, however, some ways that you can drastically reduce your risk. The important thing to remember is that ID theft is all about access to your information. The more access thieves have to your information the easier it’s going to be for them to steal your identity. Here are a few ways you can keep your information secure:

1. Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet. So many of my clients have had their identity stolen because they keep their social security card in their wallet and their wallet is lost or stolen. You probably have to keep your driver’s license in your wallet but there is almost no reason to carry your social security card so keep it locked up at home.

2. Don’t keep your wallet in your car when it’s parked. Again, many of my clients have their cars stolen with their wallet inside and as soon as that happens the thieves have your address (from your driver’s license) and all of your credit cards. You can easily prevent this by taking your wallet with you even if your car is parked in your driveway!

3. Keep your documents locked in a safe and shred anything you don’t need. Many people think if something doesn’t have your social security number on it that its harmless to throw always. That’s not true! Identity thieves take little bits of information from anywhere to try and open accounts and rack up debt in your name. While shredding all those credit card offers can be a pain it does a lot to keep your information secure.

4. Shred your receipts. The receipts you get from making simple purchases can contain a ton of sensitive information including your name and a portion of your credit card number. Throwing receipts away in a public trashcan gives just about anyone access to your information. Hang on to your receipts and shred them when you get home.

5. Don’t give out your banking information over the phone. I get so many calls from clients saying they got a phone call from someone asking for their credit card or bank account number. If you called the person and you trust whoever is on the other end of the phone you might be able to get away with making a payment over the phone (though I don’t recommend it). However, if they’re calling you then there is a decent chance that it’s a scam. If this happens hang up and make a payment online or by mail.

Thieves are always coming up with new ways to get their hands on your information so they can steal your identity so this is by no means an exhaustive list of precautions but hopefully taking these steps can help prevent you from becoming an identity theft victim.

 

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