When it comes to your identity, it’s important to protect yourself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to shield your identity against fraudsters. Here are 5 tools that can help you reduce the chances that identity theft will get the best of you:
First of all, one of the best things you can do is have a variety of strong passwords protecting your information. Many consumers don’t like to have a lot of different passwords, instead preferring to just remember one password instead of several.
Unfortunately, this can make it easy for fraudsters to access multiple accounts. If you want to limit the damage from identity theft, you need different username/password combinations for all of your accounts. That way, stealing information for one account won’t result in compromising all of your accounts.
You can use 1Password to create strong passwords and store them in a secure way. You only have to remember one password, and this app takes care of the rest. It’s a simple solution that protect all of your accounts with different passwords.
This is the web site set up to allow you access to one free credit report each year. AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to get a credit report from each bureau once a year for free. You can spread it out so that you get one report from each every four months. Checking your credit report regularly can help you catch fraud early, and stop it from going further.
Just paying attention to your credit report is one of the best remedies for identity theft. If three times a year isn’t enough, you can pay to access your credit report, or you can get access through free credit information sites like Quizzle.
3. Online Account Management
If your bank and credit card issuers off online account management, take advantage of it. Sign up, and then log in at least two or three times a month. This way, you can keep track of transactions and identify potential problems.
Rather than waiting for statement delivery, you can be right on top of any issues that crop up. Use online account management to monitor your transactions and then report fraudulent transactions.
You can also use personal finance apps that automatically track your accounts. Check in with what’s happening, and you can avoid problems down the road, taking care of issues quickly.
4. Credit Monitoring Services
You can also take advantage of credit monitoring services. There are a number of them out there, and they can help you stay on top of changes to your credit situation.
Each of the three major credit bureaus offers credit monitoring. Additionally, there are a number of credit monitoring and identity services from LifeLock and Identity Guard. Before you buy, though, it makes sense to shop around a bit. While there are indications that credit monitoring can help protect your identity, not all products are created equal.
Credit monitoring services can’t really do anything that you aren’t able to do, but it can give you peace of mind. You don’t have to be constantly watching if someone else is doing it for you. Before you sign up, though, make sure that you understand exactly what is offered, and that the alert situation matches your needs.
5. Credit Freeze
Another tool that can help you protect yourself is the credit freeze. You can actually request that a freeze be placed on your credit. This way, if someone tries to open credit in your name, they are blocked. In many cases, it requires some hoop-jumping to lift the freeze. You are pretty well protected, but it also means some inconvenience for you. Plus, a credit freeze might cost you some money.
If you want a less expensive and less limiting option, you can place a fraud alert on your account. However, in order to take advantage of this option you might have to first be an actual victim of identity theft. The fraud alert doesn’t mean that credit will be denied, but it can mean that issuers do a little extra legwork to verify your identity before moving forward.
A freeze or an alert can be helpful in discouraging fraudsters and protecting your identity.
Take the time to find ways to protect your identity. While nothing is full-proof, you can limit the damage with a little effort.