The kids are back in school and before you know it the holidays will be here. YIKES! Now that you have a little more time for yourself, take a few minutes to go over some steps to protect yourself from identity theft. Not a favorite topic of conversation but a necessary one. Good news is that although opportunities for identity theft have increased, so have the tools we can use to protect ourselves.
Check your credit regularly! You can get a FREE Credit Report, one per year, from AnnualCreditReport.com or CreditKarma.com. Check one company, Experian, Trans Union and Equifax, every 4 months. Better to be safe than sorry.
Check your bank and credit card accounts online at least once a week. Be sure all the charges are ones you made.
Try to use a credit card for purchasing instead of your debit card. You do want hackers to get access to bank info.
Change passwords every 60-90 days and use different passwords for each account. I know it sounds like a lot of work but a lot less than recovering your identity. There are a variety of password manager tools available like "1 Password" and "Last Pass" to help make the process a bit easier.
You can sign up with online credit companies to monitor your credit. Keep in mind that "No ID protection service can legitimately claim to prevent your information from being used or stolen". They just give you the bad news faster. If you are diligent about checking your accounts regularly you can save the monthly fee for coffee or cocktails!
Many homeowners insurance policies offer ID Theft coverage. It pays for any out of pocket expenses you may have in connection with the ID theft:
- Approved reasonable attorney fees. Victims have been known to spend thousands of dollars on attorney fees as they work to restore their good name.
- Employer-documented lost wages for work time lost to meet with attorneys, law officials, and others concerning your claim.
- Loan application fees when reapplying for a loan that was rejected due to credit fraud.
- Costs for notarizing the appropriate official documents.
- Costs for certified mail to appropriate law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, etc.
- Related long-distance phone calls to merchants, law enforcement agencies, creditors, etc.
If you are unlikely enough to get your identity stolen, here are a few things you should do immediately:
- Don't freak out!
- Contact all 3 Credit Agencies and put a fraud alert on your account
- Close comprised accounts
- File a police report
- Call Us to go over your homeowners policy
The most valuable thing you can do is to use smart habits to protect yourself. Don't click on any sketchy emails, the joke may be on you! Get in the habit of shredding papers with personal data. Also, it is never too early to start teaching your kids about good credit habits.
Your only surprises should be wrapped in pretty paper, not notices about identity theft!