A bad credit score is no April Fool’s Day joke

There are numerous ways in which an identity thief can make unauthorized charges on your existing credit card accounts, or open new accounts under your name.

The annual Consumer Sentinel Network report issued by the Federal Trade Commission indicated that of the overall two million complaints received, nearly one in five involved identity theft.

Among the 369,132 alleged identity theft complaints, 13 percent referenced credit card fraud,the second most common form of identity theft reported.

To avoid falling victim to credit card identity theft, Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:
Shred all sensitive documents. Avoid storing documents that contain personal information you no longer need including credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, and other billing statements.
Sign up for direct deposit. Having any paychecks, social security or pensions delivered electronically to you make them easier to track.
Passwords. Always select a unique password in regards to online banking. Avoid using your name, birth date or the last four digits of your SSN.
Check your statements regularly. Monitor bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity. Know what dates your bills arrive. Late or missing bills can indicate your information has been compromised.
Check your free credit report annually. Look for unknown accounts on your credit report, especially if you get turned down for credit, a loan or a job.
Be careful about sharing your Social Security Number. Ask why your number is needed, how it will be used and what will happen if you refuse.

The most important thing to do when you discover identity fraud is to take action right away. Remember to keep records of all your telephone calls and other correspondence with companies regarding the identity fraud. If necessary, close all your accounts.

You should keep credit card records in a safe place so you can report a loss quickly. Contact each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) if you discover that you are the victim of identity fraud.