Identity Theft: How To Immediately Prevent Further Damage

Yesterday a client asked how to protect themselves from identity theft. Lifelock may be a better solution than what I am going to lay out here.  But I do have things that I do to protect myself.

 I got caught in the mass Target theft of identity theft, and I don’t want that to happen again. Recently Yahoo suffered the largest theft of personal information to date. I believe SONY suffered an embarrassing theft, as did the DNC. I don’t know that this is the secret, but here is what I do. Obviously, this won’t protect you from Wikileaks, but it appears effective for protecting your money & credit. (Famous last words?) Perhaps with Lifelock as a backup. This is what I do.

Protecting my banking information

First of all, I live in the digital world. I don’t use either cash or paper checks. I carry about $20 of cash in my billfold to pay a guy who doesn’t take digital for washing my cat. I make all my transactions from a small personal bank account which typically has less than $100 in it. Every time I decide to make a purchase, whether I am in a checkout line or a sitting on amazon, I put everything on hold long enough to check my balance ensure the transaction will clear. Every bank in the world has an app that works great for that. It takes less time than the vaunted chip reader and seldom delays the progress of the entire line. However, my primary concern is my bank account, not whether someone is inconvenienced. But I do everything in my power to ensure no one is inconvenienced. If my bank account is deficient, I transfer the money from another account that I have in the same bank. I do this under the theory that a crook who may steal my identity can’t access a bank account he knows nothing about.

Protecting my credit information

I freeze credit reporting at the big three credit rating agencies. If someone wants to take out a mortgage in my name, they can’t because no one can check my credit. I am certain of this because every time I do something that requires checking my credit, they call me and ask me to lift the freeze. Nobody is going to take out a mortgage in my name without getting my credit worthiness assured.

I believe all three agencies have a procedure for lifting the freeze for three days so someone can check your credit. Two of them do for certain. I have seldom had to lift all three freezes at the same time. Some banks, for instance, rely on only one credit reporting agency.

Here are links to freeze your reporting.

Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html#removeFreeze

Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

TransUnion: http://www.transunion.com/corporate/personal/fraudIdentityTheft/fraudPrevention/securityFreeze.page

 

-Ellis

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