Many Americans have found themselves victims of identity theft. There are many ways to protect yourself from different kinds of identity theft. There are some things that you can do to keep yourself safe:
1. Monitor your credit reports – by monitoring your credit report the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian), you will see any activity that might be fraudulent. Any activity that you believe is fraudulent you need to dispute that immediately. Be sure that you dispute that as not your account. You may also need to dispute that with the creditor.
2. Use fraud alert – if you find fraudulent activity on your credit report notified the credit bureaus and have them put a fraud alert on your accounts. This will make it a little more difficult for you to get credit but it will be much more difficult for the identity thief. If you have been a victim of identity theft then you are more likely to be a victim again.
3. Don’t use a debit card – using a debit card is much more dangerous than using your credit card. Debit card is a direct link to your bank account whereas any credit card is not. There are more protections built in to credit cards especially when fraud occurs.
4. Be aware of online fraud – many times you will receive an email that looks like a legitimate email from your credit or bank institution. But if you click on the link within that email you will be directed to a web site that requires you to enter your personal information. If you provide that personal information you will become a victim of identity theft. Most banks or credit card companies will provide you with information on how they will contact you via email.
5. Check your mail – if you don’t pay your bills online and are still receiving your bills in the mail be careful. Many identity theft victims found out later that the thief got the information from the mailbox or the trash. I suggest setting up online bill pay or automatic payments so that you can stop bill or statements from coming in the mail. If you receive anything in the mail be sure that you shred the documents before discarding them.
6. Close bad accounts – If you have been a victim then the accounts may never be safe again. Talk with your bank or your credit card company about opening a new account. This is the only sure way to protect your accounts.
7. Keep your personal information under lock and key – having a safe is becoming more important each and every day. Keeping things like your checks, credit card statements, bank statements and other personal financial information is critical today. Owning a safe that is bolted on the floor or to a wall is critical to protect yourself from today’s identity thief.
8. Be careful where you use your credit or debit card – you never know where the identity thief lurks. The device that can read the information on your credit or debit card can be held in the palm of your hand. If the thief swipes your card day will have everything they need to steal from you. If you use your card at a location that is new to you try to watch your card at all times. If you are unable to watch then check your account online over the next few days for any unusual activity. Many merchants will happily allow you to watch them process the payment. Most merchants are putting their register equipment in very public locations.
On the back of your credit cards and bank cards is a telephone number for you to contact if your card becomes lost or stolen. I suggest that you put those either in your cell phone or next to your home phone. Even in a situation where you think the card is lost or stolen contact the creditor immediately. Your bank or your credit card company has a time period that you must notify them so that you can be protected. If you fail to notify within that timeframe you may be out much more money. Good financial habits start with monitoring your credit report. Anything on your report that is inaccurate, misleading or simply not yours should be disputed until it is accurate. If you have never reviewed your history report then you may find many items that need to be disputed. If you need help in disputing there are many legitimate credit repair companies that can help you. Please investigate any company completely before you use their service. Good credit is critical in today’s economy and monitoring your credit can protect you from identity theft.