Identity theft is an issue that is regularly in the news – over the past couple of years, I’ve written multiple financial tips on the potentially devastating effects of identity theft. It is frightening to think that 25,000 Americans are victimized daily [that equates to nearly 5% of all Americans last year alone!]. I’d like to review the general strategies available to consumers to help minimize ID theft that have been shared prior and then discuss a new FDIC resource I recently came across.
Personally viewing your credit report. Every 12 months you can order a credit report from each reporting agency for free. Most experts suggest staggering your reports (ordering one every four months). Use the gov’t site: (http://www.annualcreditreport.com NOT www.freecreditreport.com).
Opt out. One way to reduce the risk of ID theft is to reduce the number of solicitations you receive. You can opt out of credit card solicitations and phone solicitations.
Fraud alert. This is a ‘flag’ you can place on your credit report after being victimized. Alerts potential creditors that you are a potential fraud victim. Unfortunately, creditors aren’t required to abide by [or even check] the alert.
Credit monitoring service. A service where an annual fee (average of $75) is assessed to tell you when people are viewing your file. Most services don’t add much of a benefit beyond what you can do for free [see above].
Credit freeze. This is a very intriguing option and the only viable option that allows you to ‘stop’ ID theft before it happens rather than reacting to issues that surface. Several problems exist – laws have been established in some states, but not others; some states require you to be a victim prior to being able to use the freeze. I was very pleased to learn that Missouri initiated a credit freeze law since my freeze tip last June. For a list of state freeze laws, click link.
FDIC – “Don’t Be an On-line Victim” (free CD-ROM).
Nice, free resource on guarding yourself against internet thieves and electronic scams. The free CD-Rom can be ordered at the FDIC website. There is also an online version. The ID theft resource has seven sections:
- Introduction to identity theft
- Introduction to electronic scams
- Protecting your information
- Protecting your computer
- What to do if you are a victim
- Help for identity theft victims
ADDITIONAL ID THEFT RESOURCES