Guide to Monitoring Your Credit and Avoiding Identity Theft

How can I avoid being the victim of identity theft?

Having your identity or credit cards stolen is a scary thing that can happen to anyone. In a short period of time, a thief can create a mess out of your credit history making it difficult or impossible for you to get credit. If you have been the victim of identify theft, contact the credit bureaus to inform them and have a note added to your credit report. Letting potential lenders know that you have been the victim of identify theft will make it much more difficult for anyone to get credit in your name. The next step is to look for fraudulent items on your credit report and work with each individual creditor to clear up the item. It can take you years and cause you a lot of frustration to get this corrected. Avoid being a victim by taking a few simple steps:

1. Keep your social security number private.

2. If someone calls you asking for information such as you date of birth, mother’s maiden name or social security number don’t provide the information. Instead ask for a phone number where you can call back. Get information on the name of the person calling you and the company. Then check into it before calling back. If they say they are from your bank, call your local branch to ask if they would call you for the information.

3. Shred credit solicitations that you receive in the mail. Simply throwing them away may not be enough.

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How often should I check my credit history?

Having your information stolen can happen at any time so keeping a close eye on your credit history is critical. There is a lot of advice as to how often you should check your credit report. Some financial professionals recommend credit monitoring on a monthly basis, but that isn’t really necessary unless you have reason to believe that your information has been stolen. A more reasonable period of time would be to check your report about every six months. This allows you to not only keep an eye out for fraud but also to watch for errors that may occur when a creditor reports something incorrectly. At a bare minimum you should at least be reviewing your credit report annually. You don’t want to find yourself in a bad situation at a time when you need to have good credit in your favor.

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