Nearly 12 years ago, I discovered that my identity was compromised, and someone had placed over $1,000 in fraudulent charges. I was upset and concerned, but in retrospect, I’m thankful it was such a small amount. The damage could have been much worse. The day I found out my identity was compromised, I immediately put on safeguards to protect my accounts. If you’d like to do the same, there are four free ways to protect your identity.
Four Free Ways to Protect Your Identity
You’ve likely seen advertisements for paid credit monitoring services, but you don’t need those to protect your identity. If you’re willing to endure a bit of inconvenience, you can lock down your identity for free.
Freeze Your Credit
The first, and most important, step you can take is to freeze your credit. When you freeze your credit, no one can open new credit in your name—not even you—unless you first thaw your credit.
You’ll need to go to each of the three credit bureaus online and place a freeze on your credit. Then, when you want to open a line of credit, you will need to go online and thaw your credit. You can choose to permanently or temporarily lift your credit freeze. I always temporarily lift it for just a few days—long enough for the borrower to pull my credit, but not long enough that my identity is likely to be compromised.
When you first freeze your credit, you will get a code. Keep this code someplace very safe because you will need it each time you thaw your credit.
Use Credit Karma
Credit Karma is a free credit monitoring service and more. Credit Karma will also give you your credit score and recommend loans and credit cards to you.
Recently, my husband and I thawed our credit so we could refinance our house. As soon as the loan officer pulled our credit, I immediately got an alert from Credit Karma that a company had made an inquiry on our account. Whether you freeze your credit or not, I highly recommend Credit Karma.
Access Free Credit Reports
Did you know you can pull your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus for free? You can do so at annualcreditreport.com. Previously, you could only access each credit bureau’s report once a year, but since COVID-19, you can now access them weekly.
Pulling your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus is a good way to confirm no one has opened unauthorized accounts in your name.
Check Credit Card Statements Weekly
I pay off my credit card weekly, so once or twice a week, I go online to my credit card companies. I reconcile every transaction against my budgeting software (You Need a Budget). This process helps me quickly catch any fraudulent charges. However, often my credit card company discovers the charges as soon as they happen and notifies me. That’s happened three times over the last 10 years.
With a little inconvenience, such as having to thaw your credit, you can utilize these free ways to protect your identity. But remember, a little inconvenience now will save you a massive headache and financial burden later because you can prevent your identity from being compromised.
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in New York where she loves the natural beauty of the area.