Nearly every day it seems, there is a breaking story on the news about computer hacking or people losing their identity. Sadly, most of the time, no one really explains what you should do in order to protect your own security. The companies that charge money to watch over your credit, offer many things that you can do yourself.
Often one thing that is glossed over in the news is that small children are at the greatest of risk of having fraudulent accounts set up in their names. A 6-year-old would likely not find out about such victimization until becoming old enough to apply for credit, only to find out that there were credit cards, houses, cars and lots of other things that had been defaulted on for many years. Often the very young or the incarcerated are the best targets for stealing identity.
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The IRS has a form that you can utilize. If you fill out IRS Form 8821 and include it with your tax form, the IRS will notify you if your Social Security number is being used at another address.
Secure a bank alert
Placing a Consumer Reported Identity Theft Security Alert in your ChexSystems consumer file may help you combat identity theft. When added to your consumer report, ChexSystems customers will be notified of the security alert each time they inquire about you. Inquires are made any time an attempt is made to open a new banking account. Some smaller banks and internet banks do not report to chex systems but setting up the alert is still a good idea.
Secure a credit freeze
Almost anyone can freeze his or her credit. A few years ago it was only available to people who lost their identity; today anyone can utilize this tactic. This will have no affect on existing accounts, but it will keep new accounts from being created. If you use your credit report in the course of business, often it is not a good idea to freeze your report. You can temporally thaw your report if you do need to add a line of credit and then freeze it again.
Credit freezes do have small fees associated with the service, but it can be well worth the money spent.
You can order a freeze using the Internet, phone or through the mail. One note on mailing to the credit reporting bureaus: always request certified return receipts when communicating with them. If you need to have access to credit you will need to contact the agencies to place a temporary thaw.
Contact addresses, phone numbers and websites:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30340
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX. 75013
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA. 92834
There are many fake websites on the internet that offer to check your credit, so don’t be fooled.
Checking your own credit report security
You can check your credit report with the four reporting agencies once a year for free. Avoid the many other websites that promise to “help” you do this. There are countless scams on the Internet that will steal your information. Many scams begin with luring victims with false offers that involve providing personal information. Keep this in mind if you choose to search for free credit-reporting assistance from any online company other than the four legitimate reporting agencies described in this section.
To check your report, contact all four reporting agencies: