How to Prevent Identity Theft If Information Has Been Hacked

identity theftIt seems like everyday there is another major company that has had their customer information hacked.  Unfortunately with the amount of technology that is available to people these days this is a problem that is going to continue.  For this reason we need to be cautious and be able to protect ourselves from having our identity stolen when things like this happen.  There are many ways to protect yourself from this criminal activity read on below to learn more.

Freeze Your Credit Reports

When people are speaking of their credit reports what most do not realize is that you have the availability to freeze your credit report.  What this means is that there cannot be any activity on your credit reports at all.  Therefore no one can pull your credit report to check your credit score and no one will be able to open a new account in your name.   The only drawback to this is that you will not be able to open a new account either.  However the major credit bureaus will allow for you to unfreeze your account temporarily if you need to open a new account of some sort and then refreeze your reports as soon as your are finished.  Depending on where you live this might cost you money out of your own pocket for each of the credit bureaus and it is a separate process for each of them.  This is different from credit monitoring and will give you a much more secure feeling If you are truly afraid that your identity will be stolen.

Credit Monitoring

Credit monitoring is something completely different from freezing your credit report.  This is something that credit agencies want you to pay for because they can charge you a monthly fee for as long as you have them monitoring your credit.  However you are spending money for something that will only send you an alert after someone has already opens an account under your identity.  This is something that you can fight after the fact but unfortunately the damage has already been done and you will have to fight to get it off of your credit report.

identity theft

Fraud Alert

If you feel like your identity might have compromised but you do not want to freeze your credit you have the availability to place a fraud alert on your account.  This will be in place for ninety days.  Once the ninety days has passed you will have the option of continuing the alert if you have a police report or go through the proper channels of having it continued.  This part can be a little confusing.  You do have the capability of doing a fraud alert for each of the three major credit bureaus and it is easy to do in the beginning.  In fact if you do one fraud alert the alert will automatically apply to all three of them.

Know Who The Credit Reporting Bureaus Are

Before you run into the situation of having your identity stolen you should familiarize yourself with the credit bureaus.  There are currently three major credit bureaus that you should know about.  There are Equifax, Transunion, and Experian.  When you contact them regarding your identity information you will need items such as your name, social security number and current address as well as the last address you lived at.  When speaking with them you may be given a PIN number.  You should keep this number safe, as you will need it the next time you contact that bureau.

When you have someone steal your identity you can be in a large mess to get it corrected and it can take a long time to accomplish.  In the meantime you may risk having your credit ruined and possibly even have your tax return stolen.  Life will be very difficult until this is corrected.  It is better to stay on top of things now in order to protect yourself.

Image credits to : Don Hankins