You only have one identity, make sure you protect it.
- In 2017, 16.7 million US citizens were victims of identity theft, a record high, which cost $16.8 billion in losses, both direct and indirect.
- Of those reported, the $905 million in such losses were a 21.6% increase year over year from 2016-17.
- Of such victims surveyed in the 2017 Aftermath Study by the ITRC, the negative effects were tantamount:
- 26% of victims had to borrow money from families/friends,
- 22% had to take time off from work to deal with such theft,
- 15% had to sell possessions to pay for expenses, and
- 6% had to take a payday loan.
There are many easy steps you can take in order to protect your identity.
Guard Your Information Online.
- A great wealth of information about you is online. You need to change your passwords for your investment & bank accounts at least monthly.
- Pay for online purchases with your credit card, which has better guarantees under federal law than your online payment services or your debit card.
- Be alert for phishing, a trick in which spam or pop-ups mimic legitimate banks or businesses to obtain your personal information, which they use to access your accounts. Always verify that you’re on a familiar website with security controls before entering personal data.
Monitor Your Bank/Credit Card Statements/Credit Reports
- Check your accounts regularly so you know when something is awry. Purchases you didn’t make should be obvious—like a gas fill-up halfway across the country.
- By law, you’re entitled to a free report every year from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Request one every four months, changing bureaus each time. You can order the report directly through each agency, or at annualcreditreport.com. Use this URL—there are hordes of knockoff sites that will try to charge you for your report and other needless services. Scan it for abnormal activity, such as accounts or credit cards you didn’t open. (And don’t fall prey to faux free credit report advertisements.)
Shred Sensitive Document
- Buy a shredder and regularly shred outdated bank statements, credit card applications, bills, and anything with your personal information before tossing it into the trash or recycling. Junk mail often includes some of your personal details.
Decide If Fraud Protection Is Right For You
- Before you spring for identity theft protection, consider the no-cost measures you can take to protect yourself. Remember, despite the hype, the odds of having your identity swiped are actually quite low. And no identity theft protection is bulletproof, so consider these factors before you buy.
- First, decide whether you’d like to purchase the services of a dedicated identity theft protection firm or one of the products offered by your bank or insurer. Many banks now offer customers daily credit checks that alert them to fishy activity in their accounts. Some will also provide insurance to repay lost wages or legal fees incurred as a result of identity theft or fraud.
- Other plans assign you a caseworker to help restore your credit. You can also try to bundle identity theft insurance with your home or auto coverage. Be wary of this kind of insurance, however — these policies can be riddled with exclusions that may prevent you from ever collecting in the event of theft.
- Then there are the specialty companies—LifeLock and TrustedID are two of the most prominent—that market themselves as identity theft protection experts. These companies offer a mix of preventive and reactive tools to maintain your identity and credit, the most common being fraud alerts and credit freezes.
- Alerts and freezes are two measures you can take yourself, so consider whether you want to pay a company to do it for you.
- Some identity-theft protectors will immediately place fraud alerts on your files with the three main credit bureaus, whether you’ve been victimized or not.
- In essence, it forces any bank or credit agency to balk before approving credit requests in your name. It’s not foolproof, though.
- The law only requires the creditor to take reasonable precautions before extending credit. This may only be a speed bump for a practiced thief, so don’t consider it a guarantee that your identity won’t be swiped.
- Freezes are far more effective than alerts. Icing your files prevents any company from accessing your credit unless you already do business with them, effectively sealing your records against any new creditor.
- Freezes can be a pain if you’re seeking a mortgage or student loan—or any form of credit. You’ll have to contact the bureaus to unfreeze your records, which can take up to three days. Plus, the credit bureaus normally charge a small fee whenever you freeze and unfreeze your files. Credit freeze rules vary by state.
If you have any questions about fraud protection offerings that we recommend or simply want to discuss how to protect against fraud yourself, please feel free to reach out to our team.
 According to 2018 Identity Fraud: Fraud Enters a New Era of Complexity from Javelin Strategy & Research.
According to 2017 Data Breach report from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
Karen DeRose and Anthony DeRose are registered representatives of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.
Securities offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp a broker/dealer (Member SIPC) and a registered investment advisor. DeRose Financial Planning Group is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors does not provide legal or tax advice.