How To Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Recently, when I was reading the book by David Bach, titled Fight For Your Money, I came across a great sections with several tips/action steps that I could perform to help safeguard myself against one of the worst crimes of all, identity theft.
In fact, they were so good, that I decided that I should dedicate a post to summarizing the advice, and my experiences with each one of them.
You may be asking yourself why you need to be worried about identity theft happening to you?
Before reading David’s book, I might have been thinking the same thing. However, Bach mentions that right now, criminals surfing the web can use a number of sites where they can pay a fee and gain access to all sorts of personal information (including your Social Security number), solely by knowing your name.
If you’re not convinced, take a look at the site at the link below called Net Detective. At this website, you can simply pay $29 and find out anyone’s Social Security number.
So, now that I’ve sufficiently scared you in to understanding the gravity of the situation, let’s take a look at some things we all can do to prevent identity theft.
1. Buy a Paper Shredder
Unknown to my knoweldge prior to reading this book, 79% of identity theft cases occur through “low tech” means (i.e. not through the internet).
Most of the time, someone will come in direct contact with your personal information through pieces of paper laying around (or in the trash), or the information will be obtained through a fraudulent phone call.
In order to safeguard information that you throw in the trash, it needs to be shredded. In recent years, paper shredders have become very cheap.
Check out the link below from Amazon, where you can purchase your very own paper shredder for ~$30. I myself need to stop putting off buying one of these at this price!
2. Place a Fraud Alert For Free On Your Credit Report
This was another action step that I had no idea was available to the general public (free of charge no doubt).
By clicking on the link below, you can go to the credit reporting agency, Experian, fill out your information, and instruct all 3 credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, and Equifax) to place a fraud alert on your credit file.
What exactly does this fraud alert do/mean?
Luckily, having a fraud alert on your credit file does interfere in your ability to make day-to-day transactions with your credit/debit cards and bank accounts.
What it does do is instruct creditors to notify you at a phone number you specify whenever there is a request for credit placed within their company.
For more information about how to place fraud alerts and what they do, click on the link below from the Student Services department at the University of California, San Diego.
How to Place a Fraud Alert On Your Credit Report – UCSD
Note: The free fraud alert only lasts on your credit file for 90 days. After 90 days passes, you will need to simply log back on to the website above and reinstate the fraud alert.
3. Monitor Your Credit Report
After placing the fraud alert on your credit file with each of the three credit reporting agencies, it is important to closely monitor the contents of your report. This can be done for free by using the website, Annualcreditreport.com.
4. Reduce the Amount of Junk Mail You Receive

Another way to prevent identity prowlers from stumbling upon old papers/statements with your personal information on them is to prevent the papers from being sent to you in the first place.

If you’re like most people, you receive hundreds of  “pre-approved” bank, credit card, and loan offers every year in the mail. Of course, all of these are unsolicited, unwanted, and a nuisance. However, if you are not careful, they can even become very dangerous because they contain your personal information.

Now, there is a tool offered by the three credit reporting agencies called Opt Out Pre-Screen. By clicking on the link below, or by calling 888-5-OPTOUT, you can choose not to be sent these offers permanently, or for 5 years at a time.

Opt Out Pre Screen

I hope these simple steps help to safeguard you and your family from identity theft. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Keep on learning!

Jacob

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