In 2016, identity theft hit an all-time high. In fact, consumers lost more than $16 billion because of identity theft and fraud. The most common attack? Card not present fraud jumped last year. This type of fraud involves involuntary purchases made by a fraudster, usually over the phone, without needing a physical card. If a hacker somehow accesses your banking or financial information, they can use your credit cards and apply for loans with you ever knowing.
While the Internet may be full of vulnerabilities that hackers will try to use to their advantage, there are ways to keep yourself save. Knowing how to protect your identity online is a critical part of avoiding becoming a victim of identity theft.
Some basic tips include:
- Knowing your privacy and security settings on social media
- Using complex passwords
- Never sharing your login information
- Using two-factor authentication
- Knowing how to spot malicious emails and hyperlinks
Having to worry about all of this can make using the Internet a drag. There’s nothing worse than having to browse in fear or having to worry about every link and email that you open. And remembering long complex passwords? Let’s not even go there.
On the bright side, there are companies that exist to make your online time much easier. Here are 5 tools that will help you protect your identity online.
- Free Credit Report
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting act, everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from each of the top 3 credit bureaus each year. You have the choice to review all of them at once, or spread them out throughout the year. To view your credit reports, you’ll want to visit annualcreditreport.com. These reports don’t provide a credit score, but you can use FICO score estimators to get a general idea of your credit score range.
It’s important to keep tabs on your credit reports to analyze them for correctness. Fraudsters are all about opening accounts and loans in their victims’ names. Do yourself a favor and take a look at your credit report at least once a year.
If you notice any discrepancies that may indicate you’re the victim of identity fraud, you’ll want to place a fraud alert on your credit report. This ensures that the three credit unions are aware and can work to protect you.
- Fraud Alert
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft in the past, or if you’re at risk because of a data breach, considering having a fraud alert placed on your credit report. This protection tool makes it much harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. Before a lender can open an account or issue credit, they must first contact you.
Be aware that you only need to contact one of the credit bureaus. That credit bureau is then responsible for contacting the other two. A fraud alert offers 90 days of protection but can be removed at any time.
If you plan to open an account or apply for a loan in the near future, you may want to wait. Otherwise the process may be extended because of this added security.
- Credit Freeze
For more thorough security, you may want to consider placing a credit or security freeze on your credit report. This tool allows you to restrict access to your credit information. This means that thieves cannot as easily open accounts in your name. Most lenders and creditors want to review your credit report before approving a new loan or line of credit. Without the PIN to unlock your report, a thieve is less likely to be successful.
Even with a credit freeze, you can still view your free annual credit report. With a credit freeze, there are things to be aware of including:
- A credit freeze will make loan processes much slower
- You’ll need to unlock your credit so that lenders can view it
- You must freeze your credit with each credit bureau separately
- It can cost up to $10 freeze your report
A credit freeze is ideal if you’ve been impacted by a recent data breach, such as the Experian breach.
- Credit Monitoring Services
Keeping up with your credit and identity can be time consuming. To take some of the load off your shoulders, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. These services will offer all sorts of services including credit monitoring, identity insurance, as well as identity restoration. If you’re ever the victim of identity theft, it’s nice to have professionals on your side to help you recover.
While it’s important to practice good online security habits, these tools can help protect your identity online. With identity theft and fraud on the rise, it’s more important than ever to keep your identity as safe as possible.