In the digital age your identity can be compromised at any moment. The news is full of security breaches from companies that we expect to be secure. Although you cannot stop the security breaches, you can be ready to deal with a security breach when it occurs.
Limit the Information Available
It sounds like it is easier said than done but it is a great way to decrease your chances of becoming an identity theft victim. You can limit the information by being very particular about the type of information that you reveal.
If you want to be very particular, you should not give information to surveys and you should limit the information that you disclose online. Only send your personal information over a secure connection to the internet. If you are in a public place (and connected to the internet through a wireless connection), you should not give any personal information. Contrary to popular opinion, there is a risk that your information will be discovered by someone else. You should also try to clear your cache after you finish using the internet. Do not store your passwords or personal information on websites.
Keep A Record
It seems like commonsense but many people forget to keep a record of all the institutions that they have a relationship with. This includes banks and credit card companies. Keep a list of your account numbers in a safe place (where no one else can find them). It will help you when you communicate with these establishments.
It is convenient to apply for credit when you feel like it. But the truth is that convenience comes with a price. If you know are concerned about protecting your identity you should freeze your credit. Freezing your credit is basically a way of making sure that no one can get access to your account without giving more information that only you know. It requires an additional level of verification when someone wants to use your credit. It is the most economical way to protect your credit, because there is only a small one-time fee in the beginning.
It is a good idea to take steps to protect your identity. But even the best plans can fail. If you unfortunately run into a problem where you learn that your identity has been compromised, here are some steps that you can take:
Freeze and Monitor
At this point, if you do not have your credit frozen, you should definitely freeze it. This will make it more difficult to take out a line of credit in your name. If you do not want to freeze your credit you should at least invest in a credit monitoring service. At this point, you may be able to get the company that had the security breach to pay for your credit monitoring service.
Change Your Account Information
Usually companies will do this automatically. If a company does not change your account information, ask for it to be changed. Some companies are hesitant to do this until they have to, but if you ask for it they will likely change your information.
Also, you want to make sure that you change the passwords to your accounts. Typically you want to change the password every ninety days. When you use a password make sure that it includes numbers, punctuation, and is something that you made up (ie, not a dictionary word).
Most identity thieves do not use the information that they acquire immediately. You don’t know when it will show up so you need to watch your credit report all the time. You should check your credit report once every three months. If you live in the United States you are entitled to one free credit report from the three credit agencies.
It sounds like an annoying thing to do but it is something that must be done. You can make it effortless by placing all of your records in the same place. Schedule a time to review your credit report every three months. The best way to do this is by making an appointment on your calendar. If you do not use a calendar, put a reminder into your email account.
If you know that someone has stolen your identity and you notice anything that looks odd on your credit report then you should report it immediately. If you fail to report something on your credit report it may be more difficult to stop the process.
You should report this information to the Federal Trade Commission and to the your local police station. First report it to the Federal Trade Commission so that you will be able to attach that report to your police report. Local police stations will take your report of identity theft. So make sure that you report it. It is important to keep a copy of your police reports.
If you notice a lot of charges and start getting demands for payment, you need to seek professional help. There are various organizations that exist to help consumers battle identity theft. While it may cost a fee, it will probably be a lot cheaper than the grief that you would endure if you did it by yourself. Additionally these organizations will know what to do in your specific situation.
It will be difficult to rectify the situation. At times you may be required to complete the same process two and three times. Yes, it can be frustrating but there is not anything that you can do about the process right now. Unfortunately, the process is not as easy as it should be.