Trying to Stop Identity Theft? Go Beyond a Credit Freeze

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A credit freeze is one of the best ways to slow the threat of identity theft. But a freeze alone is not enough to prevent fraudsters from wreaking havoc on your financial life.

As we have reported in the past, a credit freeze is a powerful tool for keeping scammers at bay. It prevents crooks from opening credit accounts in your name.

But if you have been the victim of a data breach — and in truth, you almost certainly have at some point — fraudsters may still have access to important information about you, regardless of whether you freeze your credit.

This may include your:

  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Driver’s license number

That means you are still vulnerable to being exploited. So, you need to take additional steps. As we have noted:

“Regularly reviewing your financial statements — like those you receive each month from banks or credit card companies — is a great way to catch financial fraud early on. But don’t stop there.”

Other steps you should take include:

  • Monitor your health insurance statements. Look for mentions of health care providers you never have seen, or care you never received. These can be signs of medical identity fraud.
  • Keep an eye on your tax information. Regularly comb through your Internal Revenue Service account and look closely for when tax returns were filed and what refunds were issued. If anything is amiss, it could spell trouble. Want extra protection? Create your own personal identification number with the IRS.
  • Regularly check your credit reports for unexpected activity. You are entitled to one free report annually (and weekly, for a limited time) from the three major credit-reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. For more, check out “How to Get Your Free Credit Report in 6 Easy Steps.”
  • Set up account notifications. For example, you might request that your bank notify you any time a withdrawal is made over a specific amount.
  • Use two-factor authentication. This adds an extra layer of security to your account that can prevent fraudsters from easily accessing your money. For example, you may be required to enter a code that is texted or emailed to you each time you access an account.

The hard truth, however, is that no matter how careful you are, you could still end up a victim of identity theft. For that reason, it’s important to recognize the signs of identity theft so you can catch it early and protect your finances.

For more, read “Beware These 8 Signs of Identity Theft.”

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