One of the best ways to prevent someone from opening accounts in your name without your consent is to implement a credit freeze.  This blocks access to your credit reports, so when an application is submitted for credit using your social security number, the potential lender can’t get access to your information and will therefore deny the application until the freeze has been lifted.

Freezing your credit is now very easy and is free at the three major credit bureaus.  You can add a freeze online by visiting each of the links below or by calling the bureaus directly:

Then if you need to apply for credit at any point in the future, you can temporarily lift the freeze for a certain time period.  Most lenders will even tell you which credit bureau(s) they use if you ask them ahead of time, so that you may only need to lift the freeze for one instead of all three.

While freezing your credit is one way to help prevent identity theft, there are a number of other best practices to follow:

  • Use strong passwords that are different for your various accounts. And try to update them on a regular basis (at least quarterly).
  • Turn on multi-factor identification whenever possible.
  • Review credit card and banking transactions for any unusual activity.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links for your email, text messages, or when browsing the web.
  • Shred documents with personal information before discarding them.
  • Avoid public Wifi.
  • Shut off electronic devices (computer, phone, tablets, etc.) when not in use.
  • Use caution when sharing private information online, especially on social media threads such as Facebook. These can be used to guess your various account recovery questions.

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent fraud, but freezing your credit and following the recommendations above will hopefully make it much more difficult for you to become a victim.

 

About the Author

Michael T. Powers, CPA, PFS, CFP® (Mike), is a flat fee-only financial planner based in Richmond, VA serving clients virtually nationwide. 

Photo courtesy of Pickawood on Unsplash.

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