When the President or other VIP’s plan to attend an event, the Secret Service examines every possible security detail well in advance. They speak of the various “layers” of security and of the difficulty in passing through those many layers. Given recent lapses in White House security for the party-on crowd, maybe they need more layers!
In any event, you can layer your own identity theft protection and effectively “Lock” your own life without having to shell out cash to do it. Some of these layers will cost a few bucks, though most are free to use. How many layers will you use to defend your credit and your reputation? Since my identity was stolen, I use six of the seven listed here:
- Checking your credit file
- Placing a fraud alert on your credit report
- Opting out from credit offers
- Opting out of direct marketing campaigns
- Credit monitoring
- Adding homeowners insurance rider
- Using a credit freeze
Layer one – Checking your credit report regularly
Checking your credit has never been easier but make sure you do it by using www.annualcreditreport.com. Any other website charges you unnecessarily. Since you get one free credit report every twelve months from each of the three credit bureaus, plan to get one every four months, simply rotating amongst the three. Examine them carefully for anything suspicious and dispute anything that doesn’t belong to you.
Layer two – Do it yourself fraud alert
Did you know you can place your own fraud alert on your credit report? It’s as simple as a phone call but beware: if you plan to use ANY type of credit, a fraud alert can slow things down. What things? Opening a savings account or checking account, getting a loan to buy a new car, or even possibly renting an apartment (if the landlord checks your credit). Go to the web site of the credit bureaus or call:
When you set up a fraud alert it lasts for 90 days (one year for active military) or up to two years if you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
Layer three – Opting out
The third layer of security for your identity is to opt out of any credit offers that are sent to you in the mail. Identity thieves can steal your mail, apply for those offers and use their own address. Call 888-567-8688 to opt yourself out.
Layer four – opt out of direct marketing campaigns
For one dollar, you can opt out from the Direct Marketers Association (DMA). Simply go to their web site at www.dmachoice.org and tell them to leave you alone!
Layer five – Credit monitoring
Many personal finance blogs pooh-pooh the idea of credit monitoring, but if you’ve been through the ID theft ringer, that little bit of money is well worth it. I personally use Equifax and yes, I have the Cadillac of their systems.
After I misplaced my debit card a few months ago and received a new one, I realized that my Equifax account wasn’t charging me and I panicked at the thought of NOT having my credit monitored. I quickly set it back up.
Layer six – Adding a homeowners insurance rider
Many homeowners insurance policies allow you to add an identity theft rider to your policy. different policies have different provisions and processes, but if you’re worried about ID theft, a homeowners rider may be the way to go for you. Admittedly, this isn’t “protection” per se, but an insurance policy to give you some cash, credibility, and assistance should you find your identity has been compromised.
Layer seven – The credit freeze
This one is the big kahuna, the great grand-daddy of sealing your credit. Using a credit freeze is drastic but if you’re being victimized, it may be your only option. Credit freezes are now available in all states.
Identity theft has grown to gargantuan proportions with almost 10 million people having fallen victim. I know all about it. I was one of them.
Photo by Cracks in My Front Door