4 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft

Worried about identity theft? Learn four ways to help secure your personal information.

 

1

Credit Monitoring

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What it is

  • What it is
  • Monitors your credit files for changes or suspicious activity
  • Offers email or text alertswhen hard credit inquiries occur or new lines of credit are opened

 

Why use it

  • Often offered free of charge after major breaches when social security numbers (SSNs) have been exposed
  • Does not restrict access to your credit files
 

What you need to know

  • Is reactive—you will be notified only after unauthorized activity has occurred
  • Requires you to entrust another company with your SSNs
  • Monitors credit only

2

Fraud Alerts

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What it is

  • Places a cautionary note on your credit reports, alerting credit lenders or service providers that you may have been a victim of identity theft
  • Requires that changes to your credit be run by you first

 

Why use it

  • Free of charge
  • Easy to set up (You can submit a request to one major credit bureau, and all will be notified.)

 

What you need to know

  • Does not restrict access to your credit files
  • Verification process not clearly defined by law
  • Verification could potentially cause delays in credit changes
  • Does not protect accounts that are already open

3

Credit Freezes

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What it is

  • No one—including you—can open a new line of credit
  • Restricts your access to credit (You would have to unfreeze your credit files first with a personal identification number (PIN).)

 

Why use it

  • Preventive measure
  • No changes can be made to a credit file without the PIN

 

What you need to know

  • Separate requests needed for each credit bureau
  • Some states charge a fee
  • Does not restrict access to accounts already open (Fraudulent activity can still occur in those accounts.)

4

Identity Theft
Protection Services

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What it is

  • Offers all-in-one suite of tools and resources, including real-time credit monitoring at all three major bureaus, customized account alerts (for more than just credit), and a 24/7 call center

 

Why use it

  • Combines the benefits of other tools (e.g., credit monitoring and alerts) in one place
  • Offers 24/7 support
  • Some monitor accounts outside of credit files

 

What you need to know

  • Must entrust a third party with your SSN
  • Can be costly
  • Quality varies by company (Before subscribing to any service, perform due diligence.)
  • Most will not help with identity theft that occurred prior to membership