Hey buddy! Do you remember every store or website where you have swiped your card? I know that this might not be possible for you! But you know what? Thieves and hackers can strike anywhere and at any time!
Yes, you heard it right! I think barely a month goes by without seeing a major data breach hitting the news headlines! By the way, is your financial data safe?
If you have any doubt, then you should be more cautious to safeguard your information to prevent identity theft. And take some concrete steps to take if you are already a victim!
So, here we have listed some of the best possible measures you can take to protect your credit from identity fraud!
Freeze your credit
A credit freeze can help you protect yourself from identity theft by blocking access to your credit reports. You need to inform all three major credit reporting bureaus to restrict access to your records. As such, new credit lines cannot be opened unless and until you unfreeze your account.
Let me tell you, freezing and unfreezing your credit at each bureau comes free of cost! Usually, you need to provide your Social Security Number (SSN), birth date, etc. that confirms your identity. You can use a PIN or password to unfreeze your credit when you need it!
Go through your credit report at least thrice a year
The baby step to protect your credit from identity theft is to stay informed! You can get a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus once a year.
To stay well-informed about your credit reports, you can get a report from one bureau at the beginning of the year, another in the middle, and another at the end of the year.
But why would you do so?
If you check your credit reports often, you can identify any odd activity that might pop up. We have listed some of the identity theft red flags that you should look for in your credit reports:
- Sudden activity on your inactive account
- A new line of credit which you haven’t opened
- Wrong personal information
- The credit inquiry you have not applied for
If you see something odd in your credit report, you need to take immediate action! You have the right to dispute any incorrect information.
Contact the concerned credit bureau along with supporting documents so that they can look into the issue asap!
Enroll in a credit monitoring service
Are you eligible for free credit monitoring?
Well, if you are not, you don’t need to worry! You can purchase credit monitoring! You can find many credit monitoring companies that will charge you a monthly fee of around $30. However, I would suggest you review the services included before signing up with a credit monitoring company.
But what is meant by credit monitoring?
Well, credit monitoring keeps a tab on your credit reports and alerts you of any changes to them. If someone tries to use your data to open a credit account, you can know right there instead of any data breach later on! You can enroll in a credit monitoring service for credit card fraud protection.
Don’t access any unsecured Wi-Fi network
You might be enticed to access the free Wi-Fi while taking a sip of your cup of coffee in a cafe! But you should refrain from using these public Wi-Fi networks because it’s unsecured! Anyone using that same open network can get access to your information.
I would suggest you wait until you get home! But make sure to secure your home WI-Fi with a strong password. Also, anyone can hop onto your network and access your information. Don’t give a fraudster any opportunity to steal your information!
Protect your computer
You can protect yourself from identity theft by doing the following things on your computer or smartphone,:
- Use a firewall and a secure browser
- Don’t download any files from unauthorized sources
- Don’t use a free of cost internet security or antivirus
- Use a separate password for any personal or financial information
- Don’t create a password that is based on your available data (like your date of birth, anniversary date, etc.)
- Stay away from opting for the auto-login process (which stores your login information)
- Most importantly, when disposing of your computer, make sure to delete all your personal information and overwrite the hard drive.
Don’t use your debit cards for online purchases
Do you use debit cards for your online purchases? Now, let’s say that your debit card information is hacked due to your stolen identity. And some purchases are made without your knowledge. If you want to get your money back, you have to take up the issue with your bank. Whereas, with a credit card, the card issuer will fight to get your money back.
There are two laws to protect you if your card information is stolen or fraudulent transactions have been made
- In the case of debit card transactions, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) is applicable. You will have up to 60 days to report a lost or stolen card under EFTA. After that, you will lose whatever money you have lost!
- On the other hand, for credit cards, your maximum liability for fraudulent transactions is $50.
If there is a fraudulent transaction on your credit card, you don’t lose any money.
You need to report the fraud to the credit card company and they will credit back the amount to your account. Most likely, the issue will never affect your bank account!
However, you need to use your credit cards wisely like making payments on time, keeping your credit utilization ratio lower, etc. Else, you might be vulnerable to falling prey to the debt trap
But what if you are already a victim of stolen identity?
If you are already a victim of identity theft, you can contact the major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This way, you can give a heads-up to potential lenders and creditors that someone might be trying to use your credit to apply for credit.
A fraud alert is a statement in your credit report that alerts anyone viewing reports that they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft. This alert can lead creditors to perform more thorough vetting before extending the credit line in your name.
Usually, a fraud alert lasts from about 90 days to 7 years and notifies the creditors to confirm your identity before taking action on your credit.
So, what are you thinking?
Check whether or not your data is safe at the earliest! If you think that you are vulnerable to identity fraud, take the proper action immediately!