Identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personal information, such as your credit card data or Social Security number, to commit fraud or other crimes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, an estimated 9 million Americans suffer identity theft annually.
Do You Need Identity Theft Protection? Before examining the services available, try these common-sense, no-cost measures to protect against identity theft and fraud:
Guard your information online. These days, many of us do most of our shopping and banking on the web. With all those account numbers and passwords floating around, it’s easy for someone to nab your information and go on a spree.
Monitor your credit report. By law, you’re entitled to a free report every year from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Request one every four months, changing bureaus each time. You can order the report directly through each agency, or at annualcreditreport.com. Use this URL—there are hordes of knockoff sites that will try to charge you for your report and other needless services. Scan it for abnormal activity, such as accounts or credit cards you didn’t open.
Shred sensitive documents. Buy a shredder and regularly shred outdated bank statements, credit card applications, bills, and anything with your personal information before tossing it into the trash or recycling. Junk mail often includes some of your personal details.