You might have already seen adverts offering “identity protection” services. In fact, nobody can guarantee you won’t be a victim of identity theft. These services offer identity monitoring and repair – things you can do yourself, for free.
The widespread concerns about identity theft has spawned many companies that watch information sources – most importantly, your credit report – for signs that an identity thief may be using your personal information to get loans, open credit card accounts, or otherwise cause chaos in your finances. You can pay these companies to alert you to possible trouble, or simply watch yourself.
If you are more open to being a do-it-yourself (DIY) person, here are some free and low-cost alternatives to paying for identity theft protection services:
- Check your credit reports for free: Your credits reports will show if someone opens, or tries to open, an account in your name. Federal law requires each of the three major credit bureaus to give you a free credit report each year at annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports.
- Place a credit freeze on your reports: A credit freeze blocks anyone from accessing your credit reports without your permission. As potential creditors cannot check your files, a freeze generally stops identity thieves from opening accounts in your name.
- Review your monthly credit card, bank, retirement, and other account statements for any transactions you never authorized. You can also log into your internet banking to view statements or ask your bank to print these for you
- Keep a close eye on your mail. If you are not getting bills, benefits checks, or other mail you are expecting, or if you get bills for items you never bought, it could be a sign that an identity thief is at work.
- Review benefits statements. You normally get these from your health insurance providers. Make sure you tell your insurers and medical providers about any treatments you never receives, immediately
How do you deal with identity theft? You can get free recovery help at IdentityTheft.gov. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also allows you to report identity theft and get a personal recovery plant that:
- Walks you through each recovery step.
- Tracks your progress and adapts to your changing situation.
- Pre-fills letters and forms for you to send to credit bureaus, businesses, debt collectors, and the IRS.
IdentityTheft.gov has recovery plans for more than 30 days of identity theft, including child identity theft and tax-related identity theft.