Looking for ways to stop identity theft? Here are some of the best identity theft protection ideas. From credit freezes to credit monitoring, there plenty of options to choose from.
Featured in the Richmond Times Dispatch’s Making ‘Cents’ of Financial Planning special on 2/17/2019*
Technology has made our lives easier in many ways. But at what cost?
The recent tsunami of corporate data hacks is proof our personal data has become the price of admission. If you’ve ever interacted with modern technology, like it or not, your private information is out there.
Simply put, protecting your identity has never been more important. So what can you do to protect your identity, beyond trashing your computer, only paying in cash, and forsaking the internet? Here are some ideas:
Freeze Your Credit
This can stop identity theft before it even starts by blocking new lenders from accessing your credit reports. Effectively, a fraudster trying to open an account in your name should be promptly rejected because the lender will be unable to verify “their” (i.e. your) creditworthiness beforehand.
Freezing your credit is not only highly effective, it is also free and easy to do – making it almost a no brainer when it comes to the best ways to stop identity theft. Not only is this a highly effective precaution, but it is also free and incredibly easy to do. Go to each bureau’s website (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion – see links below) and follow the prompts. It should take less than 10 minutes in total to do all three. Afterward, you’ll get passcodes from each bureau. Keep these somewhere safe! You’ll need these passcodes if/when you need to “unfreeze” your credit (ex: if trying to buy a house/car, or signing up for a new credit card). In most cases, the bureaus are legally required to unfreeze your credit within one hour – making this a painless means of protecting your identity.
Oh, and one more thing – freezing your credit does not affect your credit score!
Freeze Kids’ Credit
Fraudsters don’t discriminate based on age. If you have kids under 16, you should freeze their credit, too. Kids over 16 need to do it themselves. Freezing a minor child’s credit takes a bit more effort, but overall is still easy to do. You’ll need to mail each bureau a standardized form (see links below), along with copies of birth certificates, drivers licenses, and Social Security cards. About a week later, you’ll get a confirmation letter in the mail, complete with steps on how to unfreeze their credit when necessary.
A freeze only stops new accounts from being opened. Hackers can still make fraudulent charges on existing accounts. For a monthly fee, monitoring services help detect unauthorized usage on your current accounts. This can help catch fraud before too much damage is done.
If you haven’t frozen your credit, a monitoring service should also alert you any time an account is opened in your name. But because monitoring alone will not stop a fraudulent account from being opened in the first place, if you get this alert you’ll need to immediately, proactively take additional action. For this reason, pairing credit freezes with credit monitoring can be an effective one-two punch.
Identity theft is something that affects the young and the old, the rich and the poor alike. And the unfortunate reality is that advances in technology are allowing hackers to get more and more sophisticated every day. No line of identity protection is 100% foolproof, but the above tactics will give you an edge. So do your future self a favor – take a few minutes today to safeguard your family from what could be a giant (and expensive) headache tomorrow. Money and finances are stressful enough on their own. Don’t let identity theft be one more thing to worry about! Take some of these easy steps to protect your identity NOW!
HELPFUL TOOLS AND LINKS
Identity Theft Checklist – are you at risk of having your identity stolen?
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