With data breaches becoming more frequent, it is important to understand how to protect yourself. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, without your permission, and pretends to be you to commit fraud. It can be hard to notice that you were a victim of identity theft until you review your reports or statements and see charges you didn't make, or are contacted by a debt collector about a debt you don't recognize.
The CFPB recommends a few ways to ensure your personal information is safe.
Signs of fraud or identity theft:
- Incorrect personal information on your credit report
- Credit inquiries from companies you've never contacted
- Money is missing from your bank account
There are also some free or inexpensive options that provide additional protection from identity theft:
- Security Freeze: A security freeze on your credit report generally prevents new credit and accounts from being opened in your name.
- Fraud Alerts: If you suspect fraud on your account, notify the creditor that you see the fraud on immediately and they will take additional steps to verify your identity first before opening credit in your name.
- Identity Monitoring Services: Scan personally identifiable information in credit applications, public records, websites, and other places for any unsual activity that could be signs of identity theft. Typically available for a cost.
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