Identity Theft

It's a jungle out there in Cyberspace. Everyone is after your information to steal everything you own, including your personal identity (who you are). The only sure way to prevent this is to stay off the internet and get rid of your cell phone. So how inconvenient is that in todays world? Very. So what can be done to mitigate the potential, and probable, attacks? Credit Monitoring, Credit Freeze, Fraud Alerts and Identity Theft Insurance.

Credit Monitoring is the process of periodically reviewing your credit reports for accuracy and changes that could be indicative of fraudulent activity. Credit monitoring can be done either manually (you reviewing your credit report) or by using a passive credit monitoring service (companies specializing in this type of service or possibley through consumer reporting agencies). Reviewing your credit report once a year, to be certain that it doesn't include accounts that you have not opened, is very important. Your credit report can be obtained (free) from one of the consumer reporting agencies.

Credit Freeze, also known as a credit report freeze, a credit report lock down, a credit lock down, a credit lock or a security freeze, allows an individual to control how a consumer reporting agency is able to sell their data. This is accomplished by directly contacting the consumer reporting agencies. This can be done any time for any, or no, reason. Unless you are expecting to soon apply for a loan or credit card, you should regularly Freeze your credit report. It usually lasts for 90 days and may be free or cost very little.

Fraud Alerts on your credit report notifies lenders and creditors who pull your report to take additional steps to verify your identification before they extend a credit line or loan in your name. This is accomplished by directly contacting the consumer reporting agencies or a third-party credit monitoring service.

Identity Theft Insurance provides reimbursement to crime victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports. This insurance is available from insurance companies specializing in this type of insurance and possibly through consumer reporting agencies or your homeowners insurance carrier.

Credit Reporting Companies:
As of the writing of this page (September 22, 2017), these are the major U.S. Credit Reporting Companies (also known as credit bureau or consumer reporting agencies). While they can help with all of the above actions, consider that they make money on the (your) information they sell to financial institutions to get you to buy/invest. However, it's a double-edged sword in that they can also be the first line of defense to block your credit and personal information from getting into the wrong hands. BUT, because they are computerized, they are susceptible to computer system breaches and theft of your personal information.

Equifax
Experian
Innovis
TransUnion

While you cannot prevent companies from being hacked, you can apply the 4 activies/services above to your life and: • Secure your social security number (SSN). Don't carry your social security card in your wallet or write your number on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
• Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online (especially on social media sites).
• Collect mail promptly. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
• Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
• Enable the security features on mobile devices, especially if you have contacts, banking websites and applications saved.
• Update sharing and firewall settings when you're on a public wi-fi network. Consider using a virtual private network, which can give you the privacy of secured private network.
• Review your credit card and bank account statements. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
• Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
• Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work.
• Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
• Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess easily. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases

See Also:
Building a Personal Defense Strategy
How to protect yourself against identity theft and respond if it happens