Identity theft is a growing concern for many consumers, especially we increasingly conduct business online and share our personal information on social media. Pittsburgh’s WPXI reports that identity theft occurs at the whopping rate of once per every three seconds. Even for people who keep much of their personal information as private as possible, recent security breaches at several major organizations show that no individual is safe from a loss of personal data, regardless of their personal habits.
For example, a security breach at the national payroll company ADP recently exposed the names and social security numbers of nearly 5,000 Houston government employees, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently settled a case in which the names, social security numbers and dates of birth of 26.5 million veterans and their families were stolen. Situations such as these are, unfortunately, out of consumers’ hands.
However, there are ways people can protect themselves and their family members from identity theft, even if their personal data is somehow compromised. Several companies are rolling out additional identity theft protection services every day.
One industry implementing its own identity theft precautions is banking. Most banks offer customizable account alerts, but many consumers may never look into the advanced area of their control panels. Consumers who do want to take advantage of account alerts may be surprised to see what they can control. Account holders can get texts, emails or even calls in the event of suspicious activity or low account balances. Many banks can also alert clients if there are transactions larger than specific amounts on their accounts.
The three major credit reporting bureaus all offer credit score and credit report monitoring services. These agencies can alert you to any inquiries to your credit reports or any adverse actions noted on their credit reports. Consumers can also freeze their reports in events they believe their personal information has already been compromised. Credit reports should be requested on an annual basis from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, to make sure there is no suspicious activity.
Options for High-Risk Consumers
Certain consumers may be at higher risks of identity theft. These consumers include those who do a lot of transactions online or otherwise have high levels of exposure. If this is you, consider using an identity theft protection service such as LifeLock for added security. This protection service detects any threats on an individual’s identity and sends alerts if anything suspicious occurs. It also helps consumers track their credit scores and allows them to view their reports at any time.
Do you use any identity theft protection yourself? Tell us your preferred services in the comments.
Heidi is a grad student working on a Ph.D in linguistics and communication. When she’s not studying and blogging, you can find her jogging on the beach with her beloved golden retrievers.
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