Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Identity Theft and You

A friend at work yesterday told me that he recently applied for Family Leave after the birth of his child. Soon thereafter he was contacted by the California Employment Development Department and was told that someone had already used his social security number and name to apply for family leave. My friend was baffled, and asked me what he should do.

This is probably nothing more than some sort of bureaucratic mistake, but just to be on the safe side, I advised my friend to get a free copy of his credit report to make sure that no funny business was involved. My friend's credit report did not show any suspicious activity, so I am guessing that my original hunch was correct.

If you are concerned that your personal information may have been compromised or that your identity has been stolen, visit the FTC website for detailed information on how to address the problem. In any case, it is always a good idea to keep vigilant and watch for possible signs of identity theft. The FTC lists the following warning signs for identity theft:
  • Accounts you didn't open and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.
  • Fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit reports, including accounts and personal information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers.
  • Failing to receive bills or other mail. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
  • Receiving credit cards that you didn't apply for.
    Being denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason.
  • Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn't buy.

If your identity has been stolen or misused, follow this link for information on how to address the problem.

By the way, if you remember my post from a couple of months ago about my own personal information being stolen from my Alma Mater, as of a couple of weeks ago, there were still no suspicious acitivities on my credit report. At this point I am guessing I am probably off the hook, but I will continue to monitor the situation.

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