Credit Cards

Tips, news, reviews, caveats, trends, updates and analysis related to consumer and business credit cards, and prepaid debit cards. From the interest rate specialists @ FedPrimeRate.com

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Protecting My Identity As I Build My Credit

identity theftI am not even 30 years old, and I have already had my identity stolen twice. It’s easy to assume that I may have been irresponsible with my personal information, or must have at least had my purse stolen before. There has to be a logical explanation, right? The fact of the matter is that I didn’t give out my social security number any more than anyone else going to school and working a job. I protect my belongings and my personal info like a lioness protects her cubs. Yet, it still happened, and it makes me more cautious -- even paranoid -- about the methods I use to rebuild my damaged credit.

A few years ago I learned that a woman in Wisconsin was using my social security number. She wasn’t buying extravagant luxury items on credit cards in my name. She was working and acquiring basic necessities, including average consumer credit, with my number. An expert in the field of private investigation informed me that oftentimes young people with average to slightly blemished credit histories have their social security numbers stolen and sold illegally to adults who do not have social security numbers, who need them to work and acquire basic necessities. If they do not go overboard in their spending and they pay their bills on time, their activities often go unnoticed.

I also had my identity stolen by a family member. Despite careful protection of my personal belongings, a desperate relative went rummaging for identification information - right after I openly stated that I had gone to the Secretary of State to renew my license. I didn’t put it together until after the culprit was discovered, but that didn’t happen right away. I had to argue with the local Social Security Administration office about when and where I applied for my last duplicate card before I realized that someone close to me had pulled a fast one.

I have always heard the gurus say that in order to build credit you have to have credit; using credit cards responsibly and spending less than you make is the only way. Well, how do you do that without putting yourself at risk? If someone gets a hold of my social security number, they will be able to access those credit accounts and use my credit illegally. What if someone intercepts my credit account statements? These days I protect my social security like the Hope Diamond, so I want to build my credit while using my social security number as little as humanly possible.

That’s why I like prepaid credit cards.

Your social security number is not connected to a prepaid credit card; you simply load it with cash and use only what you have on it. If someone finds your lost card, they can’t use it to follow any paper trail to your vital information. Since you can’t use cash to make online purchases, secure rental vehicles, make hotel reservations, etc., plastic is a must-have necessity for living. However, if you want to be able to live without your social security number being a big red target for thieves, you can use prepaid credit cards to do so.

I am particularly impressed with the AccountNow Visa because it includes credit reporting! That’s right, if you make bill payments with the AccountNow card, you can get positive credit reporting to assist you in building initial credit history or rebuilding damaged credit. It is truly possible to make strides toward a healthy credit score while minimizing personal risk.

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