Identity theft affects nearly one in three consumers, according to the Washington Post. In 2010, it cost Americans $37 billion in losses. Fortunately, there are several ways consumers can protect themselves from becoming victims of identity theft.
We’ll hone in on four ways that you can keep yourself and your credit cards safe from fraud. After you have found the best ways to protect your credit, use our FREE credit card finder to find the best credit cards for your personal needs!
You can sign up for a credit monitoring service for free at CreditKarma.com. The site will check your credit report daily for significant changes, and email you if any changes occur, such as a new credit inquiry, a new account, a delinquent payment or improved payment history.
When you receive the notification via email, you should note immediately if it was initiated by your own actions. If not, get a copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com to find out more information; it could be an error, or worse, a red flag of identity theft or fraud.
Set up Credit Card Security Alerts
Some credit card companies will let you set up manual alerts, such as one that notifies you when a certain amount is authorized on your credit card for a single transaction, or when you have a specific amount of available credit remaining on your card. Setting up security alerts will help you better track the status of your credit cards and keep your eyes open for any suspicious activity.
If you have a joint credit card, remember to talk with the other cardholder about the alerts you’ve set up. After all, you do not want to find fraudulent credit card charges on some crazy credit card receipts!
Initiate a Fraud Alert
If you place a fraud alert on your credit report, lenders and creditors will be required to contact you to verify your identity before extending a credit line or loan in your name. A fraud alert can prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your name. There are three different types of fraud alerts:
- Initial Fraud Alert – For those who are concerned about identity theft but haven’t yet become victims, this fraud alert will protect your credit from unverified access for at least 90 days.
- Extended Fraud Alert – For victims of identity theft, this fraud alert will protect their credit for up to seven years.
- Active Duty Military Alert – For members of the military who wish to protect their credit during deployment, this fraud alert will last for up to one year.
You can remove a fraud alert at any time. To place a fraud alert on your credit, you need only contact one of the three credit bureaus. That bureau is required to notify the other two bureaus about the alert.
- Equifax: Online or by calling 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: Online or by calling 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: By calling 1-800-680-7289
A security or credit freeze prevents any new inquiries into your credit profile. In other words, any individual attempting to open a new line of credit in your name will be unable to do so unless you temporarily lift the freeze. A security freeze is best used by those who have been recent victims of identity theft. It allows them the time they need to deal with any fraudulent accounts and activity without worrying about new accounts being created.
There is no time limit on how long a security freeze can remain on your credit, but there is sometimes a fee since laws are set on a state-by-state basis. To initiate a security freeze, first review your state’s credit freeze laws. Then, go to each credit bureau’s website to inquire how to place a security freeze:
However you decide to protect your credit, make sure to review your credit score and reports on a regular basis. It will keep you up-to-date with what’s going on with your credit profile.
Bethy Hardeman is the social media maven at CreditKarma.com, a completely free credit management service that provides free credit scores, financial education and personalized savings recommendations. Credit Karma helps more than 4 million consumers realize the everyday cost savings of having a good credit score.
- Repairing Identity Theft
- Fraud Alert
- What is credit card skimming or cloning?
- Different Types of Identity Theft
- What are some common scam credit cards?
- Fighting Against Child Identity Theft
- Credit Freeze