One New Year’s resolution that every Internet user should make and keep is to check their online identity theft precautions. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States. Victims of this crime can spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours trying to recover their identity and having their losses covered. For most, a compromised identity happened so the thief can get access to your bank accounts and credit card information. Very few of these thefts are for someone who wants to impersonate for any reason beyond your money.
Annual Identity Security Tasks
Monitor Your Credit Use
Each year everyone can get a free copy of each of his or her credit bureau reports. The three major bureaus are Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. Click on the links to ask for your report. Review your credit history for unfamiliar accounts. If you find an account you did not open follow the credit bureau’s instructions for disputing it — and place a fraud alert on your account.
Placing a fraud alert on your credit bureau report provides protection from someone other than yourself opening a new line of credit in your name. The new lender contacts you to verify that you have actually requested the credit line. But, a fraud alert is only good for 90 days before it needs renewal unless you were a victim of identity theft, in which case it is good for seven years.
If you do not own a shredder, buy one. Shred sensitive mail such as bank statements, other bills once paid, pension and brokerage statements and the like. Buy the best shredder you can afford.
Freeze Your Credit
Fees vary by state but average about $10 to freeze your credit report. When you do this, the credit bureaus cannot release your credit report to anyone without your permission.
Remove Yourself from Telemarketing Lists
You can cut the number of scammers and phishers as well as just annoying sales people who call you. Simply sign up for the Do Not Call Registry online or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
Change your online passwords for any site that you send personal information. A solid password is at least 8 characters and has both capital and small letters and numbers. Random passwords are best like Cr23TS66. Do not make a password by combining a name and birthday such as Moe121182. Ideally, each important site has its own unique password. It is a good idea to get a password program that generates and stores your passwords for you. An Internet search will uncover many excellent free and paid services.
Be vigilant in following these tips make 2014 a safe year for your identity.