Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

by Mary Suplee on Sep 15, 2017

Equifax recently announced a massive data security breach, exposing personal identification information on as many as 143 million Americans. They have set up a website (equifaxsecurity2017.com) where you can check to see if you've been affected and enroll in one free year of credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

What other steps can I take?

It is always a good idea to monitor your own personal information and be on the lookout for identity theft. Here are specific additional steps you can take:

• Fraud alerts: Your first step should be to establish fraud alerts with the three major credit reporting agencies. This will alert you if someone tries to apply for credit in your name. You can also set up fraud alerts for your credit and debit cards.

• Credit freezes: A credit freeze will lock your credit files so that only companies you already do business with will have access to them.  Also keep in mind that if you want to apply for credit with a new financial institution in the future, or you are opening a new bank account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance, you will need to unlock or "thaw" the credit freeze. Be aware that there may be fees to freeze and unfreeze credit.

• Credit reports: You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit agencies once every 12 months by requesting the reports at annualcreditreport.com or by calling toll-free 877-322-8228.

• Bank and credit card statements: Review your financial statements regularly and look for any transaction that seems amiss. Take advantage of any alert features so that you are notified when suspicious activity is detected.

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