Identity Theft is on the Rise – Two Ways to Protect Yourself

Identity Theft is on the Rise – Two Ways to Protect Yourself

Experian Home Page Image

Experian Home Page

I was recently an attempted victim of identity theft, where someone had gotten ahold of my debit card’s information and tried to buy things using it. Fortunately, my bank was able to protect me. But what do you do when thieves manage to get personal details and try to open credit accounts in your name? That’s full blown identify theft and you’re going to be in for a world of hurt.

Lots of companies are offering credit monitoring services where for a nominal fee they’ll alert you if your credit score changes. That’s really nice of them to let you know after the fact. Some may even have services to “fix” your credit should you become a victim – a type of credit insurance if you will.

I’m a believer that you need to be proactive instead of reactive. Here are two tips that you can use to protect your identity without having to pay an arm and a leg to do so:

  • File an Initial Fraud Alert with the Credit Reporting Agencies
  • Check Your Credit Score for Free at Credit Karma
Experian Fraud Page

Experian Fraud Page

First, file an Initial Fraud Alert with the Credit Bureaus. I use Experian because they seem to have the most straightforward method of completing this alert. Adding this is a free service. I detail the howto below. The important thing is to tick/check the box to where you can add your phone number (use your cell phone) to the report. If anyone applies for credit using your social security number, the lender will have to call you at the number provided to verify the application. If you don’t verify, they can’t process the application and it thwarts the attempts of the identity thieves.

This first screen, seen at the beginning of this post, is the home page. Click the Fraud Alert option toward the bottom of the page.

On the next page, you’ll click the “Add an Initial Fraud Alert” button.

On the third page, you’ll have a form to complete (seen below). As mentioned above, be sure to include your phone number. Doing so is an added safety net.

Experian Initial Fraud Alert Form

Experian Initial Fraud Alert Form

Once you complete the form and hit submit, you will be asked to verify some information. Once you complete that information, you’ll get access to a free credit report so that you can verify to make sure nothing seems out of the ordinary. Note, this doesn’t include your credit score (Experian will try to sell you the score as an upgrade). However, you can see any potentially negative items on the report and get guidance on how to correct them. Experian, or whichever bureau you use, will let the other credit reporting agencies know about the alert so you don’t need to fill out a separate form at each agency’s website.

This initial alert lasts for 90 days. I have a reminder in my calendar to come back every 90 days to resubmit the alert.

Next, visit Credit Karma for your credit score. All three of the credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax have slightly different methods of calculating your credit score. They also provide pay services for obtaining your credit score, which is up to you whether or not you want to get a score from each individual agency. Credit Karma gives you your credit score for free, which is a great asset to have. Granted, they will try to get you to take advantage of offers for better credit cards, etc. to help them pay for the credit score, but you’re not obligated to use any of those offers. I like to check my credit score on Credit Karma quarterly. Since it is free, you could do it on a monthly basis if you desired. Another great thing about Credit Karma is that it offers a variety of tools and calculators to help you manage your debt.

While there’s no 100% guarantee you’ll be immune from identity theft, these two tips will help protect you from any threats that may arise and will give you some peace of mind.

What’s your story? Have you been a victim of fraud or identity theft? Any tips to share?

Disclosure of Material Connection

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a modest commission from the sale. These links help support the maintenance of this website.

Please be advised that I only recommend products or services that I have used or tried personally and believe will add value to my readers' lives. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”