Whether you have been a victim of fraud or identity theft or not, most likely you are aware of the likelihood of this happening. How can you protect yourself? There are a few things you can do to start.
See the link below for how to place a free “fraud alert” on your credit (this is the same thing Lifelock does) which means any new inquiries will have to be approved by you first. This lasts 90 days and can be renewed as many times as you want.
If you have been a victim of identity theft in the past, you can get the fraud alert for 7 years without the hassle of having to renew every 90 days. You just have to fill out an identity theft report on https://www.identitytheft.gov/ and let the credit bureau know when you call them that you are looking for an extended fraud alert because you were a victim of identity theft.
Alternatively, you can place a “security freeze” with each of the 3 credit bureaus which actually prevents access to your credit report unless you unfreeze it. This is more secure but also more inconvenient as you have to unfreeze it every time you need to allow an inquiry. It also has a cost associated with it (~$5-10 to freeze it and again to unfreeze it). To do this call the same numbers in the link above but ask for a “security freeze” instead of “fraud alert”. You will have to determine if the added security is worth the inconvenience here.
Note that the above options do NOT protect your existing accounts from fraud (neither does Lifelock), but they do address new accounts trying to be opened in your name.
For your existing accounts we recommend you call and ask about account alerts. Most banks and credit unions offer free alert services so that you can be notified via email or text whenever there is a large transaction, deposit, transfer or new payee added.
We also recommend setting up multi-factor authentication on each of your existing accounts wherever possible. This protects you in case your online account credentials are stolen by requiring you to receive a unique code via text message when you login. Most banks have started offering this. See our post on multi-factor authentication here.
Stay cyber aware and safe out there, cyber citizens.