Avoiding IDENTITY Theft

Avoiding IDENTITY Theft

If you use credit cards, drive a vehicle, have a bank account or perhaps have a Social Security number, you might be at risk for identity theft. In line with the Federal Trade Commission, more than 9 million people each year are victims of identify theft--one in every 25 Americans-resulting in prices to consumers and firms of more than $50 billion annually.

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Unfortunately, many people who commit personality fraud should never be caught or disciplined. While the U.S. Secret Service investigates cons over $2,000, most credit card criminals keep below this threshold.

The single best approach for customers to prevent ID theft is to 'freeze' their credit using the nation's three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Once activated, a credit freeze stops financial institutions from issuing any credit--including new credit cards-without the specific choice of the consumer. Credit stops, currently available under state law in over a dozen states, end the issue of identity theft at its origin.

Retail industry lobbyists have begun to fight for changes in state and federal laws to protect people and merchants from fraud, but the charge card industry has opposed most of the laws. Today Congress is considering a bill that may deny consumers the rights they've under current state laws to freeze their credit file. This federal legislation, if passed, would effectively hand over control of credit freeze to the credit bureaus.

Consumer advocates are urging Americans to get hold of their members of Congress and question them to oppose this legislation, HR 3997 currently known..