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When you hear about data breaches on the news, the breach usually involves a large company or organization. But hackers and criminals target many small businesses and individuals on a daily basis. Cybercriminals and identity thieves use a number of tactics to access your private data. They do this for the purposes of identity theft and other criminal endeavors. Identity theft protection services can help you avoid being a victim. But you likely already have free identity theft protection you weren’t aware of.
Many credit card companies offer free identity theft protection services. These can often reduce the risk of identity theft. Additionally, your computers and mobile devices offer free identity theft protection in the form of security settings. Using the right security settings can often prevent identity thieves from accessing your private data and accounts. And there are additional actions you can engage in to further protect yourself and your data.
Each year, approximately 33% of US citizens become a victim of identity theft. That means someone is a victim every 14 seconds. You can avoid being part of this statistic by using free identity theft protection services.
The more layers of free identity theft protection you have, the more you’ll reduce the risk of identity theft. Start with the services provided by the three main credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Each of these bureaus offers its own form of free identity theft protection.
For example, you can access your credit report for free once a year with each bureau. You can view your report to look for signs of any suspicious activity that indicates fraud or identity theft. Additionally, you can place fraud alerts on your credit reports or place a security freeze on your credit reports. You can also sign up for identity theft monitoring, fraud resolution, and theft insurance for a small additional fee.
Depending on who you bank with, you may also receive free identity theft protection from your financial institution. For example, SunTrust Bank offers free identity protection and free credit monitoring. Fifth Third Bank also provides services to help keep your accounts secure. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase Bank, and others all offer options that serve to improve security and protect your data.
If you haven’t already, visit your bank’s website or stop into a local branch and ask about their free identity theft protection services. If you find that the services are lacking, you can consider switching your accounts to another bank.
Many major credit card issuers offer a variety of credit card identity theft programs. Capital One, Mastercard, and Chase provide credit monitoring and dark web scanning services. The dark web scanning service entails searching to see if any of your private data is for sale on the dark web. Chase also offers $1 million in ID theft insurance. Both Chase and Capital One offer Social Security number tracking as well.
Discover and American Express offer similar services for a small monthly fee. You should also note that the Chase free identity theft protection service is available for everyone. You don’t have to be a Chase cardholder to use it. However, it is not as robust as some of the other free identify theft protection services.
Most homeowners insurance policies do not provide coverage for identity theft. However, sometimes you can purchase an endorsement through certain insurance providers. While this isn’t exactly free identity theft protection, the cost is usually minimal.
The endorsement also doesn’t necessarily protect you from identity theft. Rather, it helps you recover from the financial and life problems that identity theft caused. If you are a victim of identity theft, you will have a case manager assigned to you to help you fix your credit. But if an identity thief has used your credit cards, you’ll need to contact each financial institution yourself.
Depending upon your place of employment, you may have free identity theft protection as a part of your benefits. Many companies today realize the importance of data privacy and protecting their employees from becoming victims.
And, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more employees are working remotely. It is in an employer’s best interests to provide identity theft protection for remote employees. That’s because if a hacker or cybercriminal accesses an employee’s network at home, they could also possibly access the company network.
Many organizations, such as AAA and AARP, also offer their own identity theft protection services for free. Typically, these services include credit monitoring and fraud resolution support. You can add more layers of protection for a small fee.
Aside from all the free identity theft protection services listed above, there are several things you can do to reduce the risks.
Protect each of your private accounts with a strong, unique password. Additionally, use two-factor authentication (2FA), if available. This is one of the strongest deterrents to hackers and cybercriminals. Use a password manager to easily keep track of all your passwords.
Hackers often take advantage of security flaws in system software and programs that aren’t updated. Keeping everything updated with the latest versions serves to patch those flaws. You can set everything to update automatically, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Many identity thieves still do things the old-fashioned way. They steal your identity using the information on documents you have thrown away. Be sure to shred all documents that contain sensitive information, such as SS numbers or credit card numbers.
If you aren’t planning on taking out a loan or any other actions that require pulling your credit report, get a credit freeze. You’ll still be able to use your credit cards. But if an identity thief tried to apply for a loan or a credit card with your information, the credit freeze would prevent them from doing so.
Follow these tips and avail yourself of any free identity theft protection services you have available to you. Then you’ll significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
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