We’re all familiar with identity theft. It’s what happens when someone uses your name, Social Security number, or credit card, without your consent, to commit fraud or other crimes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, as many as 9 million people per year have their identity stolen. To decrease the likelihood you’re among them, here are some simple steps you can take:
1) Monitor Your Accounts Regularly
• Review your bank, credit card, retirement, and brokerage account statements as soon as you receive them. Keep an eye out for unexpected charges or transactions.
2) Check Your Credit Reports
• Federal law entitles every consumer to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. It’s fast, easy, and free. To access your report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. You will have to provide your Social Security number and be able to answer some questions to verify your identity.
• By staggering how often you check your credit, you can monitor activity on your reports throughout the year. For example, try checking your credit report with a different credit reporting agency every four months.
3) Freeze your credit.
• A credit freeze restricts who can access your credit report. This limits the ability of an identity thief to open new lines of credit in your name because most creditors will want to view your credit report before opening a new account. If a creditor is unable to check your report, they’re unlikely to extend the credit.
Should you need to open a new line of credit or make your credit report accessible to someone with a legitimate need to view your report, you can temporarily lift the freeze.
Freezing your credit doesn’t affect your credit score or prevent you from monitoring your credit reports. To date, 47 states and the District of Columbia have empowered consumers with the ability to freeze their credit. The specifics vary by state, so check here for more info on your state’s specifics. NC residents can click here for a helpful guide.
It’s up to each one of us to protect ourselves. When implemented together, these three steps go a long way towards reducing the risk of identity theft. For help implementing these steps or further questions, please ask a member of your Woodward Financial Advisors wealth management team.