Identity theft is becoming a more common occurrence every single day. It takes place when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your authorization. This includes your social security number, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, personal medical information, and even your name and address.
Once you are victimized, it can take hundreds of hours to clear your identity. Police reports need filing with affidavits to prove your innocence, and you will need to spend a bit of effort figuring out how much of your information was compromised. For being the victim, it certainly takes up more of your time than you would imagine.
Unfortunately, no one can be 100% protected from identity thief. Fortunately, by taking some proactive steps and acting instantly when you are compromised, your risk is greatly reduced.
Fraud Alert – By reaching out to your three credit bureaus, you can put a fraud alert notification on your credit record. This will advise all businesses to make sure your identity is confirmed when someone tries to use your credit for any reason.
Security Freeze – Taking it one step further, a credit report security freeze ensures anyone attempting to check your credit use a unique password or PIN number before the credit check is processed.
Credit Reports – Everyone is allowed one credit report from each credit bureau every year for free. By ordering one from each of the different credit bureaus every four months, you can monitor your credit throughout the year. If you have already used the free annual report, you can buy one for about $10.00 or a combination of the three for about $15.00. Some credit monitoring companies allow you to receive free ones if you subscribe with them.
Monitoring Online Accounts – Most banks let you view your account activity online for free. Check all your accounts every so often to check for anything suspicious or unauthorized charges. Always store your passwords and log in information in a safe place so no one can gain access to them.
Guard your Social Security Number – If someone figures out your social security number, it can be disastrous. Never carry around your social security card in your purse or wallet, and do not write the number down on a piece of paper. If you have to give your number out over the telephone, make sure no one is around who can hear it and copy it down.
Checks– One of the main ways a thief steals your identity is by taking your checks out of your mailbox. This gives them your account and routing numbers, and they go make a set of new checks for their own use. Always go into the bank to pick up your checks if you have to order new ones. Additionally, thieves can steal checks out of your mailbox from the bills you are mailing. If you use bill pay online, you can avoid putting any personal checks in the mailbox. If you cannot pay online, take them to the post office to mail.
Identity theft is a horrible experience. By taking some simple steps to avoid it from happening, you can save yourself a lot of time and grief.