Data breaches have quickly become commonplace in today’s high-tech world. Target and Home Depot are prime examples of just how much information we give to people who we ultimately have no control over. What we can control are the amounts of safeguards we can put in place to help prevent ID theft in the first place.
Of course the best place to start is something everyone should be doing already: manually checking their credit. Some credit card companies help by printing a certain credit score on your monthly invoice. Another safeguard for those of you with Homeowner’s insurance is ID Theft insurance which is sometimes included with your policy; helping in worst case scenarios. It’s always good to ask your providers for any features you can add to your policy for a small additional fee or free. Then again, if you’re shopping around for a new policy in today’s competitive market place, you will come to realize different companies offer different perks and you can choose one that suits your needs.
Keeping on top of your credit is not only a great idea but it’s also free! By law everyone is entitled to one free credit report per credit agency (there are four main reporters) per year. You can elect to have all pulled at once or, as most people do, pull them one at a time with three month intervals between. When done this way one will have the most complete and up to date picture of their credit score. A simple Google search will take you to the company’s respective websites where you can download your history.
But what if you think this isn’t enough? In today’s world it may not be. When contacting any credit bureaus for an annual report you can ask to put a free fraud alert on your credit report files. You have to renew it every 90 days but it alerts lenders that they need go through extra measures to confirm your ID before issuing credit. You may choose to turn to a credit monitoring service to periodically check on your behalf when you are in between time of credit reports. A service such as Life Lock will help in this scenario. They are in business solely to alert you when something seems “off” about a transaction or if they see a trend that leads them to believe you may have had your identity stolen. In this event they would contact you and work with you to set things straight. Granted this protection is going to cost you but the expense of having to rebuild your credit and life after an ID theft is much higher than a monthly subscription to the service.
Just remember to stay diligent by reviewing your own bank statements frequently and reporting unauthorized transactions that may occur. No amount of monitoring or service is going to stop every instance of theft or fraud. But when you’re vigilant, get protected and arm yourself with the knowledge that you are protected just in case, you will be a wiser and more confident consumer.
By Bob Skrezyna for the 50 PLUS REPORT