Frightening Fact –Over 9 Million People Have Had Their Identity Stolen
Credit fraud and identity theft is a rampant problem, so much so that this week has been dubbed Protect Your Identity Week. In honor of this necessary awareness campaign I wanted to take a look at credit monitoring services and lend some tips for safeguarding your credit, finances, and identity. You can read about credit monitoring services online, hear the pitch for credit protection products on television and radio, but how do you know the effectiveness of these services? And what should you do as a consumer to protect yourself?
Prime examples of credit monitoring services are the ones offered by the big three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. They monitor your credit for about $60 to $180 per year and check your credit report for unusual changes. As a consumer, you should check your own credit report for free once a year by visiting annualcreditreport.com but for many people the peace of mind of having the extra monitoring service may be worth the price tag for their time saved from doing it themselves.
To prevent identity fraud, incorporate the following tips into your lifestyle to reduce the chances of identity theft happening to you:
- Get a paper shredder so no one can piece together important information.
- Do not carry your social security card anywhere!
- Get an unlisted telephone number and register for the do no call list. Not allowing telemarketers to call you means you have fewer chances to become a victim.
- Don’t write your social security number on checks or have your driver license include your social security number.
- Protect you PIN numbers. Cover the key pad when you enter your pin number at the ATM machine and never tell anyone what the numbers are.
- Many people think cutting up credit cards and not canceling them is better for your credit score. While that may be true, you run the risk of people make counterfeit cards if you lose track of how many accounts you have open.
- Instead of signing the back of the credit card, write “Check ID”.
- Do not keep credit cards, bills, checks, or any personal information in your car.
- Buy a safe or get a safety deposit box at the bank where you can keep important documents.
Another aspect of credit monitoring services and fraud protection to consider is that the banks usually absorb the cost if an individual’s account is stolen. But that doesn’t lessen the anguish, anger and frustration felt by the person when they are ripped off. So some companies that cover all facets of credit fraud and identity theft are not a waste of money. It’s up to you to decide if you think the money is worth spending, but remember some services can be provided at no charge.
As always when it comes to financial matters, do your research, ask questions and make certain that if you are going to sign up for such services the company can protect you – your identity may be on the line.