There are many ways your identity can be stolen. So, there isn’t one sure-fire way to prevent a theft.
However, fraudsters like to pick at the “low-hanging-fruit.” That’s why taking these very simple steps today, can go a long way to preventing identity theft in your future. Here’s 5 of the most common identity theft scams of 2018, with simple steps you can take right now to prevent them for free
# 1 – Get Alerts Activity On Your Credit Report
Social security NUMBER related identity theft is on the rise. Armed with your social security number, fraudsters can easily open up lines of credit in your name, quickly racking up significant debt.
And with Equifax hack exposing 143 American’s social security number, knowing any and all activity on your credit report is vital.
I’ve used Credit Sesame‘s free credit monitoring service now for years and recommend them.
When you sign up for Credit Sesame, you get:
- Instant alerts for when an important change has been made to your credit report
- See your credit score for free, then get monthly updates
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Credit Sesame’s 100% free credit monitoring service is hassle-free with no strings attached. You simply need to answer a few questions to create your account, and they never ask for your credit card information, nor does signing up impact your score.
Checking your credit report only once a year used to be acceptable. Today? Getting instant updates of changes to your credit report is a must.
Learn more about Credit Sesame.
# 2 – Keep A Close Eye On Transactions
Sitting at the airport recently, I popped into a financial tracking app I use to find a charge from StubHub for $700+. I quickly called American Express to notify them of the unauthorized charge and all was taken care of. If I didn’t catch this right away, however, things could have been much worse.
Beyond your social security number, the next piece of information thieves want is your credit card number. Of the 3 million fraud reported identity theft cases of 2016, 33% of them were credit card fraud.
With so many fraudulent charges, it’s important to maintain a close eye on transactions across all your accounts. You want to take action right away if any fraudulent transactions do take place.
With 100+ transaction a month and multiple credit cards and bank accounts, tracking each transaction can be a lot easier said than done. Enter technology.
An easy way to do this is using a financial tracking software. There are multiple free apps out there that allow you to aggregate your accounts and see each of your transactions.
My favorite such app is Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you get to see all the transactions, across all your accounts — in one place.
This is incredibly helpful, as you can pop into the app a few times a week to spot any unauthorized charges. The quicker you spot a charge, the quicker you can cancel the card and stop further damages.
The ideal scenario for any fraudster is running up thousands of dollars of charges on a credit card before it’s spotted. Fortunately, you can easily prevent this with a good finance tracking app like Personal Capital.
# 3 – Regularly Check Your Credit Report
Credit Sesame provides you a way to access your TransUnion credit report. But there are other reporting agencies as well. And the information on your credit report may differ from agency to agency.
As opening a line of credit in your name is one of the most dangerous acts of identity theft, you want to regularly check all your credit reports.
Put in your calendar to order a copy of your free credit report once every four months.
The credit reporting agencies are required to provide this report to you free of charge each year. (There’s three agencies, so once every 4 months will allow you to check once each year).
The site you want to use is AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the site setup by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
# 4 – Reduce Junk Mail
According to the U.S. Secret Service, your mailbox is the riskiest non-technological threat to your identity.
Of the billions of mail you do receive, much of it does contain personal information. One such type of mail, pre-approved offers, represent the greatest risk. These are the offers from insurance and credit companies you qualify for based on your credit.
There are two ways to prevent these types of offers ever coming to your in the first place:
- Use OptOutPrescreen.com or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. This is a service setup by the major credit reporting agencies. Choose to eliminate any pre-approved offers for credit and insurance. This will opt-you-out for 5 years.
- If you wish to permanently eliminate any pre-approved offers, use the Permanent Opt-Out Election form provided by OptOutPreScreen.com.
# 5 – Use 2-Step Verification
Beyond physical mail, hackers also try to steal your e-mail or other data that’s stored electronically. Chances are there are important documents floating around your personal and work email archives.
The best way to prevent this is to use 2-step verification. With 2-step verification, you must use both your password and phone (you get sent a text with a code) to login to your account from a new device.
Here are the instruction to setup 2-step verification with popular email service providers: