You work long and hard to build a good credit rating, but you can lose it quickly if thieves steal your credit information and open new credit in your name. Thieves can drain your checking account if they obtain your debit card info. Protect yourself from unauthorized charges on your existing bank or credit accounts. Use these strategies to against identity theft.
Tip #1: Keep a close watch on bank and credit card accounts.
An attack on your checking account by a thief who’s stolen your debit card information can take weeks to resolve while your bank launches an investigation. In the meantime, you’re out the stolen money.
Make it a habit to log into your bank account every day and review recent activity. Not only is this kind of monitoring very effective, it’s quick and easy. If you check daily, you’ll spot anything that’s amiss right away.
Fraudulent credit card charges typically can be handled much more easily. It’s a good idea to arrange for a text alert that’s triggered whenever more than $25 is charged on your credit card.
Tip #2: Order a free credit report every four weeks
A regular check on your credit history is the first line of defense against thieves trying to open credit in your name. You don’t just lose money if they succeed. You can lose your hard-earned credit rating, and your personal finances can be devastated. You’ll have to prove that you did not open the account.
AnnualCreditReport.com will give you free reports from all three credit bureaus in one hit. You can then set in motion an annual plan to monitor unusual activity. Each of the three bureaus—Experian, Transunion, and Equifax—will provide one report free each year. Mark your calendar to obtain a report every four weeks from one of the three. Go to Experian.com, Transunion.com and Equifax.com.
Tip #3: Hire a monitoring service
You may want to add another layer of security by paying for a monitoring service that will let you know as soon as a new credit account is opened in your name. Companies such as LifeLock.com will alert you for about $15 to $30 each month.
Tip #4: Consider a fraud alert or credit freeze
Putting a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account can be an effective tool if you think you are vulnerable to theft. It is especially crucial if you know that someone has stolen your credit information.
A fraud alert warns companies seeking your credit file to exercise extra care making sure that new credit requests are valid. The alert warns potential creditors that you may be a victim of fraud. You must renew the fraud alert after 90 days or it will automatically expire.
A credit freeze requires your express permission before a company can obtain your credit file. You can temporarily remove a credit freeze if you decide to apply for additional credit. Otherwise, a credit freeze remains in place until you cancel it.