As the number one crime in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, identity theft is a force to be reckoned with. This fast-growing crime is costing an estimated nine million Americans more than $1.2 billion annually. Most identity theft victims then spend countless hours trying to clean up the mess—three or more months on average, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
With October designated as National Crime Prevention Month, what better time for consumers to start educating themselves on the crime and how to effectively steer clear of it.
What can consumers do to proactively protect themselves from identity theft? Here are just some of LifeLock’s recommended pointers:
Stay ahead of the game – If your personal information is breached by a company, do not rely on credit monitoring services as a solution. These services only alert you once you already have a problem and do nothing to keep a thief from using your information.
When personal information goes public – Contact your local recorder’s office to find out if public records are available online and if any of the records contain social security numbers. If a record exists, you can request for your number to be redacted.
Don’t neglect your mortgage credit – If you own a home, check with your mortgage holder on a regular basis to ensure your home-equity line-of-credit has not had any fraudulent activity.
Call the police – Should you notice any fraudulent transactions in your bank or credit accounts or discover that you are a victim of identity theft, be sure to notify local law enforcement and file a police report. Without a report you will be unable to place a free credit freeze with the credit bureaus or be eligible for extended fraud alerts.
Remove it or lose it – Take your social security card out of your wallet. Set aside a few minutes to memorize your number, and then you can keep that sensitive card at home, locked away in a secure place.