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Tips for Helping Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft cost consumers $15 billion in 2015.1 It is estimated that a person becomes the victim of identity fraud every two seconds.4 These statistics provide ample evidence of how important it is to stay vigilant when it comes to your financial privacy. But what can you do to protect yourself?

Check your credit reports regularly

Requesting your credit reports at least once a year helps you to keep tabs on your credit history and identify accounts or other information that should -- or should not -- be there. This could include inquiries for credit that you did not request, as well as credit cards, loans or lines of credit you did not open. You can even see if you've been unknowingly sued by creditors or bill collectors for debts that aren't actually yours.

Federal law requires that you have free access to your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion reports once every 12 months from the government-backed site annualcreditreport.com. You can view, save and print your reports, and initiate disputes if you find any inaccurate or fraudulent information. You can also request your report from each credit bureau by phone, mail or on each agency's website. Keep in mind that while you can request your reports at any time you will be charged a fee after you received your free annual report.

You can also subscribe to a credit-monitoring service that provides daily access to your reports.

Protect the contents of your wallet

Keep a record of all of the documents you keep in your wallet, such as credit and debit cards and your driver's license. Write down the information that is on the cards, including the card issuer’s phone number. You can also take pictures of the back of each card. This way, you will be able to contact the appropriate parties quickly and easily, should your wallet be lost or stolen. Immediate reporting can help decrease or eliminate the threat of identity theft and fraudulent activity.

Establish fraud protection

All three credit bureaus allow you to place a freeze on your credit.  Once a freeze is in place, access to your credit report is restricted, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.. This helps you to protect your financial integrity. For more information about freezing your credit, contact each credit bureau directly or visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.

Opt out

Removing your name from mailing and calling lists can help decrease the number of parties who have access to information about you, lowering the risk of it falling into the wrong hands. You can stop receiving pre-screened credit offers by visiting the credit industry-backed website optoutprescreen.com.

One key to preventing identity theft is to maintain a watchful eye over your financial data and report unauthorized activity immediately. Taking the proper steps to protect your personal and financial data now can save you significant time and money down the road.

Additional Reading:

http://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/preventing-identity-theft/identity-theft-reference-guide-resources
http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2014/11/18/someone-had-taken-over-my-life-an-identity-theft-victims-story/

Sources:

1. http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/identity-theft-and-cybercrime
2. Federal Trade Commission: Identity Theft
3. National Credit Union Association: Prevent Identity Theft
4. http://robertsiciliano.com/blog/2015/06/04/identity-fraud-victim-every-two-seconds/

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