There are all kinds of things we can do to prevent identity theft—ranging from the simple (not giving out your Social Security number) to the complicated (separate passwords for every account) to the expensive (hundreds of dollars for credit-monitoring services).
All of these can be effective, says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. But there are two quick, easy and free things we can do that most of us don’t do that are truly worth our trouble…
Log onto bank and investment accounts every week or so rather than wait for month-end statements. Skim for withdrawals that you don’t recall authorizing. If you find any, immediately inform the financial company even if the amount is very small. (Crooks sometimes make small, probing withdrawals before stealing larger amounts…or remove small amounts repeatedly in the hope that the tiny thefts will go unnoticed.) You can bookmark your financial companies’ websites in your Internet browser to save time. Never use public Wi-Fi to access financial accounts.
Examine your credit report every few months. You might already know that you can receive a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once each year through AnnualCreditReport.com. Now you also can get a free EquiFax credit report as often as once each month through McBride’s site, MyBankRate.com. If you find a credit account that is not yours on your report, contact both the lender listed and the credit bureau.