There are many criminals that would love to steal your identity.
Seniors are often a target in these scams. My mother recently got a call that said it was her oldest grandson on the phone. Since we had already discussed this scam, she knew what to do. She asked, “Okay, what’s your name?” The caller hung up. What they were hoping is she would say, “Joe is this you?” Their response would have been, “yes I am Joe.” You just gave the scammer the answer. They would then try to get you to send them money and not tell their parents. Scammers will often try to obtain names from social media.
I had a client call recently and wanted to know how to protect her sister from identity fraud. Her sister received a call from someone who claimed to be the police and gave her a badge number. He said she had to give her social security number immediately or he would come out and arrest her. She complied and gave the number. Later, she was afraid it might be a scam and called her sister. When she was asked why she would give out the information, she responded, “he gave me his badge number.”
The police will never call you on the phone and ask for this information. Neither will the IRS or any bank. Never give out personal information to someone who calls you. You may need to give it out if you made the call to prove that it is you.
What should you do if you think you have been scammed? Notify your creditors and freeze your credit. The freeze stops anyone else from opening new accounts in your name. You can still continue to use your existing credit. You should take action to freeze at all three major credit bureaus. You can do it online or by calling Equifax at 866-349-5191, Experian at 888-397-3742 and TransUnion at 888-900-8872. You need to do it at all three because not every creditor reports and checks all three.
It is important to check your credit report every year. You can do it every 12 months at the government website, www.annualcreditreport.com. All three reports are available here. You can review each one for mistakes. Make sure there are not any accounts open that you do not know about. Check your payment history. If you find any mistakes, you can get them corrected. Do not use any services that want to charge you a fee to fix your report. You cannot have negative information removed if it is true. These companies cannot do much to help your score.
If you do want to increase your credit score, there are some things you can do. First pay your bills on time. Always pay at least the minimum due. Your score is also reflective by what is known as credit utilization. If all of your credit is maxed out, it will reduce your score. This means if your credit limit is $5,000 and your balance is $4,500 you will have a lower score than if your balance is $1,500. People with the highest score usually are utilizing only 30% of their available credit. Opening new accounts will lower your score for a while. If you have accounts you are not using, do not cancel them, just do not use them. This helps your credit utilization score.
Being careful of your identity and managing your credit are important parts of your financial life. Doing a good job will eliminate stress and make life more enjoyable.