You might not know until months later that you have been the victim of identity theft. Sometimes you find out when a loan application is unexpectedly rejected. Here are a few tips to avoid identity theft:
- Place a “security freeze” on your credit history. A security freeze prevents your credit history from being shared with potential creditors. If your credit files are frozen, a thief will probably not be able to get credit in your name. A security freeze generally costs $10 to place, thus $30 to place on all three bureaus.
- Do not carry your social security card with you.
- Do not attach or write a personal identification number (PIN) or Social Security number on any card you carry with you or anything you are going to throw away, such as an invoice or receipt.
- Shred any document that contains your credit card or Social Security number before throwing it away.
- If your insurance company or other business uses your social security number as your membership number, consider asking the business to use a different number as your membership/ID number.
- Alert your credit card lender if you do not receive your statements. Someone may be stealing your mail.
- Do not give personal information or account numbers to anyone until you have confirmed and verified that you truly need to provide this information. Resist giving any of this information over the phone.
- Frequently check your credit report to look for warning signs. At annualcreditreport.com , you can obtain one credit report each year for free.
- Add passwords to your credit card, bank and home accounts through your financial institution Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name or your birth date as your password! In addition, don’t use the same password on all of your accounts. Finally, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols as permitted by your institution so that your password won’t be easily guessed by hackers who use dictionary-based attacks.
- Consider bankruptcy. If your “honest” credit was pretty messed up with unpaid medical bills, foreclosures, high credit balances and notations of “charged off” or “other than paid as agreed”, then consider bankruptcy to wipe out the “honest” credit problems for which you are responsible, and at the same time, wipe out the “phony” credit that the scammer incurred in your name by way of identity theft. It makes no sense to challenge identity theft related negative credit entries if your honestly-and-truly owed credit accounts are delinquent, unpaid and/or showing high balances. Just clean it all out with bankruptcy and then after the bankruptcy place a “security freeze” on your credit reports to prevent the scammer from effectively stealing your identity again.
Be careful out there! You work hard to provide for yourself and for those you love. Some lazy scammer out there wants to take the “easy road” by stealing your hard-won credit and financial identity!