Getting the Right Tools for Identity Theft

Identity theft has been splashed over the front pages of newspapers for the past decade, if not longer, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’re already paranoid. You’re also likely sick of all the offers for tools to protect yourself from identity theft. It can be difficult, in the age of the internet, to tell which are genuine and which aren’t.

The answers to such questions lie in what tools best protect you specifically from identity theft threats.

Identity Theft: A Plague

Identity theft is any kind of attempt to get access to personal information and use it for illegal purposes. Before the internet, this kind of theft would occur physically, through threats, intimidation, or stealing social security numbers or mail. Check forgery is also a part of ID theft. Today, however, there’s no limit to the kind of threats one faces simply by clicking an email link. Here are some examples:

  • Data breaches
  • ATM and point of sale skimmers
  • Malware
  • Spoofing
  • Phishing scams

Unfamiliar with any of these terms? You can read more about the 5 common types of ID theft to fully understand what you face.

Stop Identity Theft Today

Given how many different ways a thief can access your information, there’s no blanket approach to protecting one’s identity. In fact, the number of things you need to do is myriad. But, according to a study by Debt.com, even the basics aren’t being covered by most people.

Here are just a few things necessary:

  1. Start with Yourself. The first step in protecting yourself starts with your own efforts. This would involve ensuring no one knows your PINs or passwords. Shredding any files that contain classified information is also critical.
  2. Free tools. You’re already offered a free credit report once a year, so take advantage of it. You can also have credit frozen for free by websites such as mysocialsecurity.gov. You may be able to get free debit or credit protection, or even monitoring, though this will depend on your accounts.
  3. Will the paid services help? Keeping an eye on your credit can be an incredibly useful tool in preventing identity theft, but it isn’t always free. In this case, the tools available for a small fee may be necessary. For instance, there is a lot of free antivirus software on the market, but none offer the protection of a premium service.

Freeze Your Credit For Free Since 2018, You may not be aware, but one helpful way to protect your identity for free is to freeze your credit report. This option has been available, for free, since 2018 for any consumer in the country. Credit bureaus are now required to offer an easy way to freeze and unfreeze your report without charging you a dime.

A credit freeze will lock a credit report, preventing any credit checks that are requested while the freeze is on. When you’re ready, unfreeze your report to apply for any loans or credit cards. When you’re done, easily freeze it again.

How You Know You’re A Victim

It may not be that surprising that, according to statistics, half of the identity thefts go unreported for a month. That’s largely because most victims aren’t even aware until after the fact. One in ten thefts goes unreported for up to two years. This is a major problem for victims, who have a hard time recouping out-of-pocket damages years after.

A consumer must first know of any warning signs that come with identity theft. There are currently 15 signals when looking over your finances that are red flags for various kinds of identity theft. Fortunately, given the high-tech developments in theft protection, you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to identify them, nor do you even have to wait passively for signals to appear.

ID Protection Tools

Protection ToolWhere to get itWhat it does
Account fraud protectionThrough your account provider (bank, credit union, or credit card company)Notifies you of any suspicious activity on your account, or you can contact your provider if you notice any yourself.
my Social Security (my SSA)https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/Notifies you if your SIN has been used suspiciously. You are also able to view any information having to do with your SIN.
Free annual credit report (all three credit bureaus)https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.actionAllows you to check all the activity over the year to ensure it’s recognizable.
24/7 free 1-bureau credit report accessExperian

TransUnion

These two credit bureaus allow access to your report at any time, so if you’re concerned about activity, you have immediate access.
Credit monitoring serviceSome banks or credit unions

Some credit card companies

An independent third-party ID theft protection organization

These monitors allow you to view your credit history and see your credit number.
Dark web scansExperian offers a free one-time scan

Third-party dark web scan tools

Scans the dark web for your personal information; notifies you if your information has turned up and what to do next.

Learn to spot the signs of identity theft

Beyond the protection tools offered online, there are other ways to tell if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. This list, compiled by Debt.com, shows 15 signals that you can use to spot identity theft before it’s too late. The sooner you find signs of identity theft, the better protected you’ll be from losing money out-of-pocket.

More Specific Threats

While we hope this page gives general information to help protect you from ID theft, there are still more specific forms of ID theft we haven’t detailed. Debt.com has compiled guides that are designed to target these more specific threats and help you understand how to deal with them.

Social Security ID Theft

Thieves getting access to your Social Security number means they can commit a number of different forms of theft. Having your number means having the ability to impersonate you, and in doing so they can open accounts in your name, get financing, file taxes in order to steal your refund, and get access to your insurance. It’s vital you take every step available to keep your SSN private.

Tax ID Theft

Once your SSN is stolen, one special form of ID theft is tax theft. This happens when someone files taxes under your name in order to steal the refund before it’s sent to you. Here’s a quick explanation of how to avoid this.

Medical ID Theft

When a thief gets your insurance information, they can use it for medical procedures. This can lead to your own claims being rejected because the policy has reached its limit. Here’s a guide to preventing medical ID theft.

Credit Fraud & Credit Reports

Someone else having your social security number is the most damaging kind of identity theft, but a thief using your account without authorization is much more common. Credit fraud occurs when a thief gets access to an existing card or account and puts charges on it. Here’s a helpful guide to help you understand the most common kinds of credit fraud ways to monitor your report to further protect you from ID theft.

Online Identity Theft

The internet has proven a great place for thieves to roam undetected, and keeping your identity secure while surfing the net is critical. You’re in potential jeopardy whether you’re banking, emailing, or shopping. Here’s a helpful guide to protecting yourself from potential cyber threats.

Social Media ID Theft

Social media has become enormously popular, but it’s opened up a new pathway for cyber thieves. Your accounts can be hacked by an impersonator or by someone who wants to get to your secure data. Debt.com provides a useful guide to protecting from threats on social media.

Data Breaches

In recent years, corporations and governments have realized they’re susceptible to data breaches. They are, in fact, one of the leading types of identity theft. There’s not much you personally can do, as a company’s security is dealt with internally. But what you can do is monitor the news and other resources for information about data breaches so you can react appropriately when they happen.