"My advice to people is to control those things which you have control over."
Larry Reed is the manager for Consumer Credit Counseling in Meridian. He says to protect yourself from identity theft you should limit the amount of personal information you give out over the telephone and on the internet, and shred all personal mail when discarding.
Meanwhile if you are a victim of identity theft, he says you can fight back.
"Well, you fill out a dispute form and send it back to the credit bureau company and they will investigate it and if they cannot verify that it was you, then they have to remove it by law."
However here's the problem. Reed says if you are a victim of identity theft, "YOU" are primarily responsible for taking steps to clear your credit report. This includes contacting the companies involved and providing any information that is needed. In some cases he says this process can take several years.
Even when it is proven that you are a victim of identity theft, Reed says the transactions are never physically removed from your credit report, but are instead marked as a fraudulent claim.
"But there is some good news," says Reed. "Even though thieves may get your credit information, you're only liable like up to the first $50. That's the law."
If you are a victim of identity fraud you should contact one of the three credit bureaus listed below:
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
"There's only so much you can do," says Reed. "If you check your credit report every one to two years, and limit who you give personal information to, then you have done your part."