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How to Protect against Identity Theft—3 Free ways to keep you safe

Identity theft is one of the biggest threats that can rob you off your identity, destroy your financial credibility and push you in debt…all without your knowledge. In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission received over 2 million consumer complaints and that is 30% increase from 2011.

With the rise in ID theft complaints, most of us consider taking up one identity theft service or other. However, you need to shell out some amount of money. Before you sign up with any of the identity theft services, check out these three free ways for identity theft protection. With a bit of caution from your end, you can keep yourself safe online.

1. Get a free credit report

One of the most important things that you can do to prevent identity theft is to check your credit report at regular intervals. lets you get a free credit report online via their toll free number. You can also opt for download request form via mail.

With this identity theft service, you can monitor your credit report three times a year. With this simple step, you can largely protect yourself from identity theft.

As a user, you should also be aware that you are entitled to a free credit report within 60 days of being denied after applying for any kind of insurance, credit or employment or anytime a company takes any action against you.

This free credit report does not include your FICO score (a 3 digit number between 300-850 that companies use to determine your credit score).

2. Free FICO Score Estimator

The website gives a free FICO Score Estimator, by asking 10 questions and then uses the answers to generate an estimated score for credit reporting agencies. If you find there are any inaccuracies in the credit report, then take it up and ask for a revised credit report. You can also request the agency to send revised report to anyone who had requested a copy in the last six months.

3. Use activity and fraud alerts smartly

Once you have checked and crosschecked that your credit report is accurate, contact your bank or credit card providers to request alerts when any transaction over a particular amount is charged to your account. You can also ask for alerts when there are any charges received from overseas.

If you feel that you are a victim of identity theft, then contact one of the credit reporting agencies and get a fraud alert placed on your accounts. You should also be aware that a fraud alert makes it very difficult to open a new credit account. Even your name will be removed from all pre approved credit offers for nearly two years. A fraud alert is for 90 days.

However, if you have been a victim of an identity theft crime, you can extend fraud protection for up to 2 years.

Put a freeze on account

Another important thing that you can do for credit protection is requesting for a freeze on your account. The freeze applies on new accounts and it does not have any effect on your credit accounts. If you have been a victim of identity theft then the subsequent attempts to steal your identity increases. With an account freeze, you can put a stop to such attacks immediately.

Identity-theft insurance coverage

If you are planning to get an identity theft insurance policy, then the smarter thing that you can consider is checking whether your existing policy covers losses due to identity theft. Different umbrella insurance policies gives protection against losses or expenses that result from identity theft.

Your bank may want to charge a monthly fee for its identity-theft protection, but your accounts are already protected by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, which caps losses by consumers due to unauthorized access to their bank accounts when the losses are reported in a timely manner. The FTC's Electronic Banking page explains the protection offered by the EFT Act.

By taking these simple steps, you can get identity theft protection and keep your credit statements safe and secure.

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