Identity Theft Protection

credit-card-1080074_1920Identity theft is often in the news. This can generate some panic causing people to turn toward costly insurance. Below are some laws and steps that offer protection for free or at very low cost.

  • If your credit card account number is stolen federal law states that you cannot be held liable for the fraudulent charges. If the physical card is stolen you can be held liable for at most $50.00. Obviously, you need to report the fraud.
  • Federal law does not offer the same blanket coverage for debit cards. However, private institutions offer this protection at no charge. The downside with debit cards is having money fraudulently removed from your account can cause problems with non-fraudulent transactions.
  • The National Security Cyber Alliance has links to free security tools and virus protection programs at http://staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/free-security-check-ups/
  •  Order your free credits reports annually through the federally authorized web site www.annualcreditreport.com  Keep in mind that it is your credit reports, not your score, that will provide a detailed history that may better alert you to credit fraud.
  • Order your Consumer Report available through chexsystems.com. This report includes a five year history of check orders and information reported regarding returned checks or collection accounts. By federal law you are entitled to an annual free report.
  • Consider a credit security freeze. A credit security freeze will prohibit the credit reporting agencies from releasing your information to anyone unless you lift the freeze.If you are under 65 years old it cost $10 to place a freeze. If you are 65 or older or have been a victim of identity theft the fee is waived. For more information visit the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Service’s web site and look for the Security Freeze web page http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Consumer-Services/Consumer-Resources/Consumer-Protection/Scams-and-Fraud/Security-Freeze-Credit-Report
  • If you are going away, put a hold on your postal mail at the US postal web site https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/
  • Opt-out of preapproved credit offers. You can choose to opt-out for five years or permanently at https://www.optoutprescreen.com