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The Best Way to Prevent Identity Theft

by on January 21, 2021
in Privacy, Tips & How-Tos :: 12 comments

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While some identity thieves might take advantage of stolen information to clear out your bank account or make claims on your insurance policies, a more insidious form of identity fraud is based on scammers who create whole new accounts — bank accounts, store accounts, credit card accounts — in your name.

Identity thieves can use your personal information to open and max out multiple credit cards, apply for loans and place deposits on big-ticket items. This activity all goes onto your credit profile, eventually sinking your credit rating. Yet you might never find out about the unauthorized activity until the debt collectors come calling or you find yourself summarily rejected for a loan or mortgage application.

Many folks have turned to credit monitoring services that will notify you about unusual activity. But that's the equivalent of closing the door after the horse has already left the barn. At that point, thieves have already opened an account and compromised your credit.

So what can you do to thwart identity thieves? The major credit bureaus let you freeze on your credit or add a fraud alert. Both are free, but each has its limitations.

Is it time to add a credit freeze?

Closing any compromised credit and bank accounts can stem your financial losses, true. But thieves can continue opening false accounts and piling up debt on your credit profile, making it impossible to successfully apply for credit.

To stop thieves in their tracks, put a security freeze on your credit profile, which prohibits lenders and companies that are trying to check your credit from accessing your profile. This prevents thieves from opening new accounts under your name, because creditors are unable to check your credit history.

“The security freeze is a good tool for someone with recurring fraud issues,” says Rod Griffin, director of public education for credit reporting agency Experian. “That's the insidious nature of fraud. Once an identity has been stolen, more false accounts may pop up again six months or two years later, and we wouldn't necessarily recognize it as fraud.”

Is a credit fraud alert more helpful?

If you're planning on getting a mortgage, a car or even a new telephone service, a security freeze can hold up the process by preventing the service providers from checking your credit. “For most people, if you plan to apply for credit or services that need credit checking, a security freeze tends to be more intrusive than it is beneficial,” Griffin says.

Instead, if you believe you're the victim of fraud, Griffin recommends first requesting a copy of your credit report. At the same time, alert a credit reporting agency that you suspect you may be at risk for fraud. The credit reporting agency will place an initial fraud alert on your profile so that any companies requesting a copy of the profile are told to ask for additional proof of identity. This makes it more difficult for identity thieves to prove they are you. The credit agency you alert will let the other two agencies know to do the same.

Next, comb your credit report for activity that wasn't generated by you. Common signs of fraud include social security number and address changes or names and accounts you don't recognize. “If you discover you have been the victim of fraud, file a police report, send it to Experian, and we extend the fraud alert so that it stays on your profile for seven years,” Griffin says.

How to set fraud alerts and security freezes

Follow these steps to set a security freeze or a security alert.

1. If you suspect you have been the victim of identity theft, set an initial fraud alert at any of the three credit agencies. You can do this online, and the agency you contact will alert the others to add a fraud message to the profile they hold on you. We also recommend alerting Innovis, a smaller credit agency. Here are the links to their fraud alert pages for quick access:

An initial fraud alert on your profile advises potential creditors to request additional verification of your identity if an account is opened in your name. This alert lasts for 90 days. If you apply for anything requiring a credit check during this period, you should be prepared to provide greater proof of your identity than usual.

2. If you find that you are the victim of identity theft — for example, if your credit profile shows suspicious activity or a debt collector turns up demanding payments for something you know nothing about — you can request an extended fraud alert that lasts for seven years. File a police report and mail a copy to the credit agency along with your request for an extended fraud alert. The credit agency will verify the fraudulent accounts and clear them out of your profile. Potential creditors will continue to receive alerts that your profile is associated with fraud, with instructions to request additional ID verification.

3. If fraudulent activity continues to appear on your credit profile, you may want to consider a security freeze. With a credit freeze, no one can access your credit profile except lenders you specify during a time period you set. You need to set up a freeze individually with each credit agency, either by phone or via each agency's online form.

When you freeze your credit profile, you'll receive a PIN to use for temporarily lifting the freeze to allow specific credit checks. Placing a security freeze, temporarily lifting a freeze, and permanently lifting a freeze are all free.

Notify the IRS

In addition to opening accounts and making purchases, identity thieves can file a fraudulent tax return in your name to trick the IRS into issuing a refund to the thieves. Most of this theft happens in January and February, since the thieves have to file their fraudulent return before you file your return. If you know or suspect that you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, you can contact your local IRS office to see if you should take additional steps to protect yourself, including filing out an Identity Theft Affidavit (you can find the find the form and more information in the Tax-Related Identity Theft section of the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft page).

How to stay safe

Knowing when your personal data has been compromised is very difficult, as it could happen from any number of places which hold that data. When a security breach occurs at a point-of-sale terminal, as it did in Target and Home Depot breaches, consumers are especially powerless and may never find out about the breach until the retailer itself uncovers it. It's best to only use credit cards, as there’s an added layer of protection which makes it easier to claim money back in cases of fraud.

When you're shopping online, use encrypted sites with "https" in the URL, and only use credit cards even when using secure online payment services. Offline, make sure your mailbox is secure; fraudsters can get plenty of identifying information from stolen mail.

Most importantly, check your credit profile once a year. You can request an annual free copy from each credit agency at Due to Covid-19 and a heightened need for credit, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are offering free weekly online reports through April 2021.

[Updated on 1/21/2021]

[id theft concept via BigStockPhoto]

Discussion loading

dalet truset freind pleas

From Ahmed Afar on November 15, 2017 :: 7:42 pm

add phone


glad your not in my shoes.

From tracie massie on May 08, 2020 :: 4:15 am

email hacked too 20 more and have man in middle on phone no acct not STALKED tried or who will help? Im old and not tech saavy,help using firestick !


Im hacked bad.

From James on July 04, 2021 :: 5:06 am

Man in middle black hat top level stuff privacy invasion. Ddoss.theft of digital intellectual goods..tracking. live treaming cams and mics. Identity theft/fraud.. its awesome


There are absolutely no doubts or maybe’s or could be’s!

From Lizzie Lebouef on April 28, 2018 :: 11:05 pm

I have these dangerous hackers that have stolen my identity and they are in my phone now 100% sure with a third party remote device! They tried to kill my puppy and I for the past two months. I went through a divorce but I don’t think he is the one directly involved. I have never been hated so bad or at all but his family hated my guts before they laid eyes on me or even talked to Me! This is a hate crime to the nth degree! A hit man even was going to knock me off and then he couldn’t do it. There are many things they have been doing that just about killed my puppy and I. They are even in my home phone and they have many people who follow me all the time. I cant get a hold of the FBI NO MATTER WHERE I GO TO FILL OUT THE FORM! They know where ai go and connect right away to whoever’s internet I’m trying to mail the form in. The only way I’m going to live or survive is if I find one person that has a heart and some kind of humanitarian in them and cares about another persons life! No one gives a shit! My name is Elizabeth LeBouef Giambelluca. My phone number is 504-450-3989 and my email is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Maybe you might care if something happens to me?! Alert the FBI PLEASE!


My cell number has been hacked too

From Kuuleialoha on June 24, 2018 :: 12:09 am

I too have been hacked over my cell phone did u find a solution cause they are using my number and spoofing my side



From on March 12, 2020 :: 8:43 am

U are a targeted individual of gangstalking ur ex hired ur neighbors to do it just like the rest of us in case u didn’t know yet


KUULEIALOHA ON November 27,2018

From Nora Clark on November 27, 2018 :: 6:31 am

go to the play store on your smart phone and download vnp and avg if you have an iphone you can do the same in the app store. block their numbers and find something else to occupy your mind other than how much your ex in laws hate you. Go have some fun with friends. Laugh a little, live a lot and trust me when I tell you that when the right guy comes along you’ll know it. My husband and I are about to celebrate 18 years of marriage but it took a lot of heart break for both of us before we found each other. We treat each other as precious gems and some day you’ll meet someone just as special.


hacked and deleted

From JAMIE on June 01, 2020 :: 10:25 am

I have been recently hacked this past week. The person had complete access to emails. They downloaded my personal files which included photos of my family and my personal information. I have been trying to recover them back. I am terrified of this person will attempt something unthinkable to hurt me. Need to know how and where I can report a cyber attack and safety for myself and children


Can you give me more info?

From Josh Kirschner on June 01, 2020 :: 2:56 pm

First of all, how do you know you were hacked and they were able to access/download your files? Did they contact you after they did this and what evidence did they provide to prove they have your files? There are a lot of scams out there with people claiming to have hacked you and accessed your information when that hasn’t happened.

If you were hacked and your information was stolen, you can file a complaint through with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. They’re probably more likely to act on complaints that involve blackmail or some sort of financial theft.

Outside of the potential for identity theft or blackmail (if you had compromising pictures in there), I wouldn’t be concerned about the typical hacker causing you or your family any physical harm. Usually, they’re just after the thrill of hacking or monetary gain, not violence. And there’s a high likelihood the hacker is somewhere distantly overseas.



From Jamie on June 02, 2020 :: 6:20 am

First of yes I do know I have been hacked. Because I do however have the code he used to access my data. Also he’s my ex and he is a retired computer program and knows his web stuff. He is also a dangerous person who i am afraid of. I did contact the police and made a report but can’t help me because its a cyber attack. And yes he contacted me telling me what he was going to do before he done it. Also if I didn’t have the evidence I have on him I wouldn’t be asking for help. So thank you for pointing me in the right direction.


My phone is hacked

From Lea Mosley on January 14, 2021 :: 11:22 pm

I do not want any more ads or any more crap. I not accepting stupid calls from 714 area code or anyone else that I don’t know who the people are. I have had enough.


hacked 3 years & counting

From fightingbackBitches on February 06, 2021 :: 6:46 am

sadly the police cant or won’t help i’m told it’s my word against the invisible ppl so ive turned it around on them keep multiple devices handy document everything if u overload the system with games and such it slows them down more than u & lets vital info show up on ur end! keep good notes cuz their in ur email, maps, gps, phone calls, texts etc and u can be held liable for crimes they may commit in ur accounts cuz to the authorities it will appear to be u! i know my hackers are watching & yesterday they stole my phone number & internet for the 5th time but apple won’t admit that they say theirs only 2 ways to show a phone is hacked but duh hackers are smarter than that! keep ur chins up & know karma will eventually give them exactly what they deserve ill be waiting with popcorn at their court hearings & to all the big name companies involved that ive asked for help begged for it & provided proof of being hacked with no response or action ill enjoy the CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT ill someday win!!


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