A credit card number, a drivers license or even a sales receipt. If a thief gets a hold of any of those things, he or she can steal your identity or ruin your credit.
All it takes is a stolen social security number, drivers license or credit card. The average identity thief steals $17,000 in less than two days and moves on before the victim is even aware. Since identity theft is a relatively new crime, it's been difficult for victims to get help.
New laws, the president signed last year are now starting to take effect. Once the crime is reported, credit bureaus must now issue a fraud alert on the victim's credit report for at least ninety-days. Extended alerts can remain up for up to seven years. The fraud alert will exclude the consumer from marketing lists which the bureaus sell to lenders and insurance companies.
In addition, businesses must now inform consumers before reporting negative information about them to credit bureaus. A law that goes into effect January 1, 2005 will help those of you who pay with credit cards. Cash registers must print what's called safe-guard receipts.
In other words, the receipts must show the last five digits of the credit card number instead of the entire account. The bad news is, merchants have until December 4, 2006 to phase out any existing registers that print out the full account numbers.