Identity theft can affect victims for years after the theft has occurred. Identity theft-related errors can cause people to be turned down for credit cards or loans, or even be harassed by collectors. Because of the difficulty of recovering from compromised information and theft, many may be tempted to purchase identity protection. Identity protection companies often have flashing commercials that promise worry-free, hands-off monitoring of personal information, but these companies cannot always deliver on these promises. Even those who subscribe to such services may still have problems with others using their information to gain driver’s licenses, medical treatment, or employment. Also, the personal information possessed by the protection services is still vulnerable to hackers. There are ways to guard your identity without spending the on these less-than-perfect services.
To take charge of your identity protection, try to follow these suggestions:
- Practice mail security: Be aware of anyone hanging around the neighborhood mailboxes, put a stop on mail delivery while away on vacation, and be selective about who knows your mailing address.
- Stop prescreened credit and insurance mailings [(888) 567-8688 or (888) 5-OPT-OUT]
- Lock up sensitive information and discard old documents (old bills, credit statements, etc.) by shredding them.
- Read all your bank and credit statements so you can quickly catch any problems.
- Regularly check your credit reports for free through the three reputable credit bureaus.
- Protect your social security number. Do not put it on any form unless it is absolutely necessary and relative information (such as forms for banking and employment).