December is Identity Theft Awareness Month. The effects of identity theft can be devastating. Identity thieves may use your information to obtain credit accounts in your name or access your bank accounts. It only takes a short time for identity thieves to ruin your credit history and amass a fortune in debt under your name. The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to safeguard your personal information.
Shredding documents containing identifying information like Social Security numbers, bank account information and insurance claims can reduce your risk of identity theft. Act quickly if you suspect your identity has been compromised. Reporting the theft as soon as it happens may limit your liability for unauthorized charges and withdrawals.
If you feel your personal identifying information has been compromised:
· File a report with the police and keep a copy of the report.
· Place a fraud alert on your credit file by contacting the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
· Close compromised accounts immediately.
· Follow up with banks and credit companies in writing.
· Change PINs and passwords for new accounts.
If your credit cards are lost or stolen, your maximum liability is $50 per card. For ATM or debit cards, your maximum liability is $50 only if you report the cards missing within the first two days of the loss.
To help protect yourself from identity theft:
· Only carry your Social Security card when absolutely necessary.
· Shred identifying documents you no longer need.
· Monitor your credit report for fraudulent or unauthorized activity.
For more information or to request an Identity Theft Repair Kit, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Hotline at (800) 727-6432 or online at www.ago.ne.gov.