An estimated 15.4 million consumers were impacted by some type of identity theft in 2016, according to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research, an increase of 16% from the prior year. Despite efforts to combat it, approximately 1 in every 16 U.S. adults was a victim of identity theft last year, and fraudsters net a total of $16 billion, a staggering sum. There are a few simple actions you can take to help protect yourself.
- monitor your banking transactions regularly to ensure accuracy
- take advantage of free annual credit reports to monitor activity
- shred sensitive documents
- change your passwords routinely and ensure they are complex
In addition to taking the steps above, you may want to consider enacting a security freeze (also known as a credit freeze) with the three credit bureaus to further protect your information. When an identity theft occurs, the perpetrator will attempt to open new credit accounts in your name. By freezing your credit, you essentially block institutions from looking at your credit data, thus preventing new accounts from being opened and limiting your exposure. The freezing process is straightforward, has a nominal cost, and can be completed online with each credit agency within minutes. A security freeze does not negatively impact your credit score.
After the freeze is enacted, you are given a passcode that should be recorded and saved securely, as it will be needed to unfreeze your credit. There is a slight inconvenience when opening a new legitimate account, as you need to go through the process of unfreezing (or thawing your credit) with the appropriate agency.
Links to place a security freeze the three credit bureaus are below:
The exercise takes just a few minutes and can give you peace of mind knowing you have taken precautions to limit your exposure to identity fraud. It is important to note that placing a credit freeze does not prevent fraudulent activity on existing accounts, so be sure to check your statements and monitor activity on a regular basis. Your JDJ team is happy to answer questions and assist you with credit monitoring.