Chapter 2 – Common Warning Signs of Identity Theft
Identity theft victims, unlike other crime victims, are usually the last to know that they have been a victim of a serious crime. Depending upon the sophistication of the thief, it can be months before someone discovers that their identity has been stolen.
One way to tell if you are the victim of identity theft is to obtain a copy of your credit report. There are three main credit reporting agencies in the United States: Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. Under the fair credit reporting act, Americans are allowed to obtain one free credit report from each agency per year. This is the easiest way to discover if someone has been using your identity. However, most Americans do not give their credit report a second thought until they need the report to obtain a loan or credit.
Americans tend not to give a lot of things a second thought when it comes to credit, which is what makes our society so vulnerable to identity thieves. There are usually clues given to a person that an identity theft has occurred and many people ignore the clues.
One clue that someone is about to become the victim of identity theft is a missing a credit card statement. Most credit card companies send out statements around the same time each month. If the victim has an unsecured mailbox, as most Americans do, the identity thief can grab the credit card statement from the victim’s mailbox.
This will probably go unnoticed by the victim who will believe that the statement has been “lost in the mail.” People often want to believe that the United States Post Office routinely loses mail or gives it to another person. While this does happen in some instances, the post office does not “lose” as much mail as people would think. They are a pretty efficient organization.
Depending how careful the victim is about his finances, he may or may not realize that he is missing a statement. In this case he will call the credit card company and tell them the statement is lost. If he calls before the payment is due, they will most likely believe him and should alert the credit card company that something is wrong. Most likely, in this instance, a hold will be placed upon the account.
If the victim is not meticulous about paying his bills on time, or has so many bills that he can’t keep track of them all, he may not realize that he didn’t pay the bill until he gets the next statement in the mail and sees a “late fee.” At this point, he will most likely call the credit card company and complain about the fee, telling them that he never received the statement and it must have been “lost in the mail.” Unfortunately, the credit card companies are used to hearing this sort of excuse as to why someone didn’t pay a bill on time and will most likely dismiss the victim as being a liar. Depending upon his past history, they may or may not reverse the fees. The victim is either happy or glad when he hangs up the telephone.