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Consumers Advised to Track Credit Report Changes

By Faye Mergel
Published: Friday, November 27th, 2009

Specialists say the best way to prevent the fastest growing crime in the United States is through a regular check. Consumers are advised to check their credit report at least once a year to prevent fraudulent items from accumulating under their name. It also helps consumers in making sure that their accounts with the credit reporting agencies are updated and that no “honest” mistakes are made against them.

Consumers Advised to Track Credit Report ChangesThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that last year, about 10 million Americans fell victim to identity theft, marking a 22 percent from the number of victims in 2007. As the busiest shopping period of the year begins, Lt. Rick Schubert of the Bonner Springs Police Department offers simple tips that would help consumers avoid a crime that costs each victim at least $500.

Lt. Schubert says the most common method used in ID theft is phishing. He adds that such crime is quite unusual, since it victimizes two parties at the same time. First is the individual whose personal information is stolen; and the company being impersonated by the fraudster.

A person whose personal identifying information are stolen will have more difficulties in his financial future. A fraudster uses the victim’s identity to apply for loans, get medical services, or to complete any transaction involving credit. All these activities are recorded by the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) in a credit report. Once a fraudster leaves his debts unpaid, as he is expected to do, a person’s credit report will tarnished with negative items such as late payments, delinquencies, or loan defaults.

Lt. Schubert notes that the fight against ID theft has become more complicated because of online shopping. Shopping for goods and services through the internet involves several states and countries which makes jurisdiction an added issue, he explains. He adds that local courts cannot prosecute identity fraudsters in other states or country, making the prosecution more difficult.

Investigators tell consumers that the best way they can keep crooks off their accounts is by checking their credit report once or twice a year. The federal government guarantees each consumer a free credit report at least once a year so experts urge them to take advantage of it.

Consumers who find fraudulent or mysterious items in their credit report are advised to place a fraud alert on their accounts with the CRAs. Experts say victims must close all the accounts that they think may have been tampered with. Victims are advised to file a complaint with the FTC afterwards.

Lt. Schubert tells victims that it is best to file a report with local authorities as well.

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