March 18, 2010


Identity theft is an issue that is regularly in the news - over the past couple of years, I’ve written multiple financial tips on the potentially devastating effects of identity theft. It is frightening to think that there are more than 8 million "new" victims each year in the U.S. I’d like to review the general strategies available to consumers to help minimize ID theft that have been shared prior and discuss some resources.

Personally Viewing Your Credit Report. Every 12 months you can order a report from each credit reporting agency for free. Most consumer experts suggest staggering your reports (ordering one every four months). Use the free, official government site only:, NOT

Opt Out. One way to reduce the risk of ID theft is to reduce the number of solicitations you receive. You can opt out of credit card and phone solicitations easily - see tip post from earlier this month

Fraud Alert. This is a ‘flag’ you can place on your credit report after being victimized. This alerts potential creditors that you are a potential fraud victim. Unfortunately, creditors aren’t required to abide by [or even check] the alert.

Credit Monitoring Service. A service where an annual fee is assessed to tell you when people are viewing your credit file. Most services honestly don’t add much of a benefit beyond what you can do for free [see above].

Credit Freeze. This is a very intriguing option and the only viable option that allows you to stop ID theft before it happens rather than reacting to issues after they surface. Consumers Union has compiled a helpful Credit Freeze Guide that provides answers to frequently asked questions and discusses state by state procedures and information.

FDIC – “Don’t Be An On-line Victim” (free CD-ROM). Free resource on guarding yourself against internet thieves and electronic scams. The free CD-Rom can be ordered at the FDIC website.

The ID theft resource has seven sections:
- Introduction to identity theft
- Introduction to electronic scams
- Protecting your information
- Protecting your computer
- What to do if you are a victim
- Help for identity theft victims
- Resources

Deter, Detect, Defend
Fighting Back
FTC ID Theft Site
Guard Against Internet Fraud
National Data
Resolving Specific Problems
State Data
Test Your Knowledge