6 Steps to Protect Yourself Against Consumer Fraud

Kevin Wray Academy, Protect Against Consumer Fraud, Risk Management, Tax & Finance, Tax Planning & CPAs

On average investment fraud schemes cost Americans tens of billions of dollars annually. Like most you probably think that this would never happen to you. Yet you hear about identity theft every day on TV and the radio. So, what are some easy steps you can do to protect yourself? Below are some of the actions one should certainly consider.

Receive a free credit report once a year

You will need to contact one of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian -- by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Make a reminder on your calendar to check one report every four months. This way you can get them every year for free.

Freezing your credit also known as a security freeze

This in turn will restrict access to your credit report. By doing this it will make it more difficult for thieves to steal your identity. Against common misconceptions freezing your credit does not keep you from opening a new account, apply for a new job or applying to rent an apartment. But if you wish to do any of these you will need to temporally lift your freeze. The cost differs from state to state and the time frame also varies. An important note is to make sure you do not lose your password to lift the freeze. If you do lose the password, it could take days to get through the system to setup a new password.

Buy some sort of Identity theft protection such as Life Lock
You will provide them your address, social security number, birth-date, phone number and email. Their job is to track any suspicious activity for you. If they find something such as an application for credit they will notify you immediately and ask if this is you. If your identity is stolen they will provide you with a specialist to handle everything from start to finish.
Place a fraud alert
This is done through one of the three major credit agencies. Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. If someone has misused your personal or financial information call one of the agencies and request a fraud alert. An example for why you would do this is if you lost your wallet, social security card, or other financial information is stolen. This will be in effect for 90 days and you will have to renew for another 90 days if needed.
Keep copies in a file
You will want to keep some sort of file on specific dates times and the names of persons or departments you had contacted. This will make it much easier if you need to go back and look what you did in the past. For example, if you want to order a new credit report you will know the last agency you contacted and the date. Remember you can get 3 free reports every year.
Request an active duty alert
If you are a member of the military, you can minimize risk. These alerts last for a period of 1 year. If your deployment is longer than 1 year simply renew for an additional year. Contact a credit reporting company and request an active duty alert. The company you call must report this to all other agencies. Keep a record of when you did this and who you talked to just in case you may need this information.