(MP) You’ve probably seen commercials offering identity theft protection services ranging from $10 to $29 a month. Yeah, another company trying to separate your money from you… I know. However, the idea behind identity theft services is good. They give you peace of mind in the event some thief steals your identity because they provide an early warning.
Many people find it valuable and convenient to pay a company to keep track of their financial accounts, credit reports, and personal information. They help you watch your accounts and they can place fraud alerts or freezes on your credit reports and remove your name from marketing mailing lists. But, did you know you can actually protect your identity for free using DIY methods?
Free Identity Theft Protection Techniques
1. Basically, alerting any single credit bureau should automatically start fraud alerts on all of them. To make sure, simply call each one separately. However, this may alter your ability to get quick approvals for auto loans and credit cards. The solution: Just give the three credit bureaus your cell phone number so that they can quickly verify your identity when you really want to apply for credit. Just call the numbers below:
* Equifax: 800-685-1111; Fraud Dept. 800-525-6285
* Experian: 888-397-3742 (same for Fraud Dept.) and online!
* Trans Union: Reg: 800-916-8800; Freeze: 888-909-8872; Fraud Dept: 800-680-7289
2. Some people like pre-approved offers, it lets them know their credit score is good, receive more product choices and helps them comparison shop. However, if you don’t, visit OptOutPrescreen.com to get removed from pre-approved insurance or credit mailing lists for 5 years or more!
3. Yet another tool at your disposal because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and can be found at AnnualCreditReport.com. Here you can get a free credit report due you every year. The site also has a page dedicated to identity theft solutions.
5. You can get lower levels of protection for free at various financial institutions like your local credit union or at many major banks, just for having an account with them.
What to do if your identity is stolen
Contact your credit card companies and ask them to close any compromised accounts. (It’s important to keep the numbers of your credit issuers in a separate place).
⇒Alert the fraud departments of the three credit bureaus.
⇒Report your stolen identity or cards to your local police department and get the report.
⇒Keep logs of all persons spoken to, titles, phone numbers, dates, time and department.
AllclearID.com, Clark Howard did a piece on the site about getting basic free identity theft protection.