Become Your Own Identity Theft Monitor
You can do almost everything credit monitoring services do, for free, but it will require some time and effort.
- Get a free copy of your credit report by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Better yet, order by phone at 877-322-8228. We find the telephone call is less intrusive and easier.
- Order a free report every three months from a different credit bureau. Scan the report for unfamiliar information, such as accounts you don't remember opening.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report by calling one of the credit bureaus. Fraud alerts are only good for 90 days.
- Put a recurring event in your online calendar to remind you to renew your fraud alert every 90 days.
- Tell the credit bureaus to stop selling your information to credit services, by calling 888-567-8688 or visiting OptOutPrescreen.com. Doing so will reduce but not eliminate the number of preapproved credit card offers you receive. It may take several weeks before you see results.
- Request a free public records report from ChoicePoint. You'll have to print a form and mail it, along with copies of your driver's license and proof of address. Scan the report for addresses and other details not related to you.
- Take your name off other marketing lists by signing up for ProQuo.com's free service. In some instances, you may have to mail letters or navigate to a marketer's own site to complete your opt-out request. Or eliminate junk mail yourself.
- Buy a locking mailbox or use a post office box. This will help prevent thieves from stealing your identity via paper mail. This is very prevalent around tax time.
- Buy a crosscut paper shredder and shred junk mail to frustrate dumpster-diving identity thieves.
- Never click on an e-mail message link to log in to your bank or to any other financial institution. Type the secure site's address (it uses https instead of http) into your browser, bookmark it, and use that link to access your accounts. Otherwise, you risk having your identity stolen by phishers.
- If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft, contact the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center at idtheftcenter.org. Volunteers there can walk you through the process of restoring your identity.
- Get educated. IdentityTheft.org, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and the Federal Trade Commission maintain huge libraries of information on how to avoid being victimized, and what to do if it has already happened.
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