Snack Time: Protecting Your Identity

I just finished reading a really good article from Yahoo Finance on protecting your identity and it made me think to share this personal story.

Last year, we were the unfortunate lucky ones who had someone get a hold of our debit card numbers. It wasn't stealing my identity and ssn, but it was just as invasive and scary. The day of the incident, I logged onto our bank account and noticed a few charges in “pending” mode that were for $1 transactions. I thought, maybe, my husband went somewhere to get gas and it wasn't processed yet. Well, later that morning, our bank called and asked if I had booked a $1000 trip to Canada…uh NO!! They immediately cancelled my card and rejected the charge. I received a new card soon after. However, I thought they cancelled both my card and my husband's card and that didn't happen. Two weeks later, the same thing happens only it's for a water company somewhere…I called the bank back and they cancelled the card and rejected the charge. Since then, we do not pay with our debit card at restaurants where they take the card away from our viewing. It's just one way we're trying to be vigilent to protect ourselves even if our bank has an amazing fraud department.

Given the fact that I'm online all the time now, I feel it necessary to take additional steps to protect our identity. One part of the article talks about setting up fraud alerts for your name/ssn. Well, in order to do that, you really need to get a copy of your credit report and contact the credit reporting agencies. We get a copy of our report a couple times a year and I thought I would highlight for everyone how you can get one too (and it's FREE).

You can go through FreeCreditReport.com (are you singing the jingle in your head). FreeCreditReport.com is through the Experian credit reporting agency, and is one I have personally used (and we actually paid for a scored report through Experian at the time too). You can also use services through any of the other two credit reporting agencies (Equifax or TransUnion) but since I have personally used Experian, I feel comfortable talking about them. FreeCreditReport.com does mention something about signing up for additional services, but if you don't need them, dont' do it (just get your FREE credit report). But, it's a good idea to request a report with your credit score if you're interested in that for future loans, etc. And, since I've been signing up for more trials and affiliate programs online, I am going to establish something with them for accounts in our names/ssn's on a regular basis. Another service I just found, but haven't used is AnnualCreditReport.com. They offer the free credit report (or credit file disclosure as they call it) annually too. If you've used this, please leave comments for others that may be interested.

So, that is one way I plan to continue to protect my identity. It's easy, FREE, and helps to give me some peace of mind!

Edit 04/06: The article also references a company called Lifelock which is a service that you pay for them to request fraud alerts on your name/ssn every 90 days with all 3 credit reporting agencies for $10/month. Just reading briefly on their site, it looks like they have an amazing guarantee ($1million) in the event something happens to your credit while they are paid to protect it. It's worth a look for me for that added level of security! And, as my reader momof2boys points out, it's something to think about for your kids too (Lifelock does offer this option of protection for your children as well). If anyone has used this service, please let me know your thoughts on the service.

Edit 04/07: Carrie added the following thoughts I want to highlight too:

    Citi also offers Credit Protector, if you happen to have a Citi Card or bank account, etc. They give you 30 days free ( another way to get a free copy of your report ). And, often when you go to cancel at the end of the 30 days, they give you incentives to stay on that more than cover the monthly charge. They alert you when new activity hits your account…which is VERY helpful. And, I have tried Lifelock. It was a good service. But, I didn't end up keeping it. Many insurance companies provide free identity theft coverage, so I was covered that way instead.


Maybe even try your own credit card company and see if they offer something similar. It's worth a try!

by Savings Lifestyle: Andrea on April 06, 2008

5 Comments

  • mom_of2boys - April 06, 2008 @ 1:32 pm
    1

    Since you are allowed one from each agency a year, I pull one every 4 months to make sure there’s nothing surprising on it. The first year these were free I was surprised how different the three were. I had an account on one of them but not on the other two. Another good thing to do, is pull them on your kids to make sure nothing has been opened in their names. Some people provide doctor’s offices and hospitals with their kids SS# (because it’s on the form) and it’s possible if you do this that your child’s SS# could be used. I don’t provide my kid’s SS# to anyone except the IRS (who should know it).

  • Andrea - April 06, 2008 @ 5:00 pm
    2

    momof2boys – that is great advice!! I’m updating the post to include this. We dont want our kids to get stuck with the issues later down the road either! Thanks! :-)

  • Carrie @ Moneysavingmethods.com - April 07, 2008 @ 8:50 pm
    3

    Citi also offers Credit Protector, if you happen to have a Citi Card or bank account, etc. They give you 30 days free ( another way to get a free copy of your report ). And, often when you go to cancel at the end of the 30 days, they give you incentives to stay on that more than cover the monthly charge. They alert you when new activity hits your account…which is VERY helpful.
    And, I have tried Lifelock. It was a good service. But, I didn’t end up keeping it.
    Many insurance companies provide free identity theft coverage, so I was covered that way instead.

  • Andrea - April 07, 2008 @ 9:28 pm
    4

    Thanks Carrie! That’s right. I was scouring the masses of emails we’ve been passing back and forth to find your advice on this one. I’ll update my post to include this too!! I’m all about the options for people to make the best (and cheap) choices!

  • Marva - April 09, 2008 @ 1:56 am
    5

    Hi Andrea! We had this to happen with my hubby’s debit card last month. Someone charged $186 worth of disel fuel in El Paso Texas, we are in Alabama. Our bank took care of it, canceled the card and refused the charges.

    Our bank told us, NEVER hand anyone your card for ANY reason. Great advice! Blessings!!!!

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