If someone steals your identity, you will begin to feel the confusion and strain that comes with trying to recover your good name and pilfered finances. Identity theft is a real and growing concern for everyone; remain alert and prepare before it happens. We have put together some ways to deter identity thieves and protect your information:
- Shred financial documents as well as personal information before getting rid of them.
- Protect your Social Security number
- Remain cautious with personal information on the phone, by mail, or over the internet.
- Protect your home computer with anti-virus guard software.
In addition to the tips provided to deter identity theft, there are ways to help once you’ve detected your identity might be in danger. Utilizing these available tools could prevent and minimize potential losses. Here are two options to consider if you suspect your personal data has landed in the wrong hands.
Fraud alert. Say you lose your wallet or discover suspicious charges in your credit report. Don't hesitate to contact one of the three main credit-reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax). That agency will contact the others. Report that your identity may have been compromised and ask the company to place a fraud alert in your credit file. When lenders and service providers see this warning, they're supposed to take extra precautions before granting credit in your name. Fraud alerts are free and can be renewed indefinitely in 90-day intervals. This alternative isn't failsafe, but if you suspect you've been victimized, setting up a fraud alert is a prudent first step. A fraud alert is beneficial because it will make it difficult for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. You could be contacted by a business for identity verification once you have an alert on report.
Security freeze. Also known as a credit freeze, this option is more restrictive than a fraud alert. When you "freeze" your record, lenders aren't allowed to see your credit report unless you grant permission by temporarily lifting the freeze. To start the process, contact all three credit bureaus. You may be asked to provide evidence (for example, a police report) that you've been the victim of identity theft. Otherwise, you may have to pay a fee each time you freeze or unfreeze your account. Processing times for establishing the freeze can vary. You'll need to take that into consideration when you plan financial activities that require a credit check, such as a car loan, revising the terms of your mortgage, or applying for a new job.
For more information regarding security theft, please read our Cyber Safety blog post. In order to establish good internal controls for your business, check out our blog post on How entrepreneurs can prevent fraud in their business.
Contact us at (212)-605-0276 if you have any questions about security theft issues.