On the average, an identity theft victim takes at least 600 hours cleaning off their identity. The 600 hours include going around town getting reports and affidavits to prove the theft, checking out the things that have been compromised, and trying really hard to get their identity back. Considering the average time, that should be a lot of time recovering from a crime of which you were the sole victim.
Here's the bad news: no individual can protect his or herself from identity theft 100%, even if he or she is covered by an identity theft company. But don't let that get you down, of course, the good news is that you can significantly reduce the risk of getting victimized if you act immediately as soon as you realize that your personal information has been compromised.
Here's what you can do:
1. Fraud Alert – you should immediately contact one of the three credit bureaus to report a fraud alert. It typically lasts from 90 days up to 7 years. When a fraud alert is set on your account, different business establishments are notified to take extra steps to confirm your identity when various actions are taken on your credit
2. Credit Report Security Freeze – this is one step higher than a fraud alert because when this is placed, a PIN or password will be required by establishments before anyone can check your credit report. Also, unlike a fraud alert, a fee needs to put a security freeze on your credit report.
3. credit reports – all individuals are entitled to receive one credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. If you are going to request for your credit report every four months, then you can surely monitor your credit all year long at four months interval.
4. Accounts Online – whenever your bank offers online services, you have to take advantage of this feature especially if it would allow you to view your accounts. You need to login periodically or check your account regularly so you can be sure that there are no unauthorized charges that have been made using your account. Do not write down or tell anyone your login information. Keep them simple and easily recalled.
5. Credit Monitoring – while credit monitoring can get pretty expensive, it is one of the most effective ways of detecting identity theft. As compared to the cost of ordering your credit report a couple of times a year, credit monitoring is way cheaper. Of course, you need to shop around and check out the best prices.
6. Social Security number – if put in the wrong hands, this can prove to be very fatal as far as your credit report is concerned. Whenever possible, do not carry your social security card in your wallet. Do not even write it down.
7. Check Order – your checks are less likely to get stolen when they are personally picked up. Stolen checks are another way for identity theft to take place. Utilizing your routing and checking account numbers, an identity thief can reproduce your checks and use them to make his own purchases. So whenever you order checks, it is safer to pick them up in the bank than having them mailed to you.