IDENTITY THEFT

PROTECTING ONE OF YOUR MOST VALUABLE ASSETS - YOUR CREDIT SCORE.

Insurance

One piece of the puzzle in protecting your identity is to have an indentity recovery option added to your homeowners/renters/condo policy. Like all insurance protection, these optional policy endorsements provide restoration services after your credit histories have already been compromised. A typical policy provides an advocate to help you stop further damage from happening, helping you correct and restore and your credit histories, cancel credit cards, and place freezes and alerts on your credit histories, compensate for legal help, along with other services. These policies do not provide money to pay back stolen money due to an identity theft.

Credit Freezes

One of the most cost effective ways to protect your credit rating from being compromised and/or stolen is to place a freeze on your histories with the three national credit bureaus. In most circumstances, this can be done online, by phone, or by mail. This helps prevent new credit lines from being open. When you want to apply for credit, you must unfreeze the bureau that the creditor uses, and then refreeze. There is a small cost to freeze and unfreeze your histories - well worth the cost. Here is contact info:

Equifax
Online: www.equifax.com (look for the "Fraud Alert & Freeze" section)
Phone: 1-800-685-1111
Mail: Equifax Security Services PO Box 105788 Atlanta GA 30348

Experian
Online: www.experian.com/freeze
Phone: 888-397-3742
Mail: Experian Security PO Box 8554 Allen TX 75013

TransUnion
Online: www.transunion.com/credit-freeze (look for link at bottom for "Identity Theft" & "Security Freeze" information)
Phone: 1-888-909-8872
Mail: TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance PO Box 6790 Fullerton CA 92834

If you are requesting the freezes by mail, you must include your full name, current address, former address is you have resided at your current address for two years or less, your date of birth, your Social Security Number, and a copy of a government issued ID.

Credit Monitoring

There are many credit monitoring services available. These services typically alert you to when someone is accessing your credit history. They also help to stop junk mail from being delivered to you. Someone intercepting a mailed credit offer is a common way identity and money is stolen. Just go to your favorite search engine and type in "credit monitoring" and you will find a number of different services.

Checking Your Credit Histories

It is a very good idea to check your own credit histories at least once a year to make sure the information is accurate. If you find inaccuracies, you need to contact the credit bureaus to fix the errors. You can get free copies of your three credit bureau histories annually by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228.

Stop the Junk Mail

Get yourself off the marketing lists that generate the unsolicited junk mail offers for credit that often get intercepted by identity thieves and credit card scammers. Call 1-888-567-8688 or go to www.optoutprescreen.com.

Additionally, go to The Direct Marketing Association website at  www.dmachoice.org to get off their members' lists. You can get more tips to opt out of other solicitations by visiting the Privacy Right Clearing House at  www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs4-junk.htm.

Debit Card Fraud vs. Credit Card Fraud

Debit card fraud is quickly becoming the most common way for you to get robbed.Fraudulent charges on these types of cards are handled differently by the card issuer.

With your credit card, you call customer service and after your fraud claim has been disputed, the charge is removed from your balance. Federal law protects you if you need to dispute charges. 

Processing a fraud claim for a debit card takes longer than with a credit card, possibly taking several weeks. Since your debit card is linked to your bank account, the funds associated with the dispute are not available to you until the bank credits them back to your account. There is no Federal protection for debit card use.

There are other pros and cons when comparing which to use, such as purchase protection, travel perks, & reward programs. From purely a protection of assets standpoint. credit cards seem to have advantages over debit cards.

Do Not Call List

Though phone calls are not as much of a threat for identity theft (unless you share private information over the phone), you can remove all of your phone numbers from telemarketers' lists by calling 1-888-382-1222 or visiting www.donotcall.gov.

For more information access the Federal Trade Commission's website.

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