Identity Theft Protection

As you are likely aware, several months ago Sony’s website was compromised and employees’ personal information, including their social security numbers were published on the internet. A friend (and former Sony employee) was among those whose information was published on the internet.

Instead of waiting until something happens, he is being proactive and has looked into identity theft protection.

Here’s his plan of action, you might want to mimic his plan of action yourself.

Identity Theft

There are various degrees of identity theft.  Lower levels of identity theft are stolen credit cards and bank account numbers.  These thefts are generally isolated to a specific card or account, which can be either cancelled or its number altered.  Social Security Number (SSN) theft is a bit of a bigger deal since the number, except in extreme cases, can’t be changed or cancelled, and the theft can extend beyond credit/money and into IRS-related issues. That said, with some basic steps in place you should be able to largely protect yourself.

 
Checking Credit Scores and Credit Report
I now check my credit score monthly.  This is totally free.  In the US there are three credit bureaus that separately track and compile a FICO score: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.  These days sites let you check you score for free (in return to seeing ads on the site and sending you the occasional mortgage/credit card advertisement).  I check all three bureaus’ scores with these sites:
credit.com  (Experian)

quizzle.com  (Equifax)
creditkarma.com (TransUnion)

You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus annually.  However, by staggering the reports from each company every 4 months you can spread three different checks through the year.  Any more than that and you’d have to pay for it.  Here’s where you can get a copy of your credit report:

annualcreditreport.com

90 Day Fraud Alert
In addition to just checking your score and report, you can place a free 90 day fraud alert with one of the bureaus (placing it with one actually places it with all three: they all communicate with each other).  What this does is that if anyone tries to open up new credit in your name with your SSN they have to contact you first to verify your identity.  While the alert is only goof for 90 days, you can keep renewing it as long as you like for free.
 
IRS
Last, SSN theft leaves you open to someone using your number to get a job somewhere else, file a return with your number, and even claim your refund, so an additional step you need to take with SSN theft is contact the IRS.  The IRS has a hotline number to call where it flags your account.  Once the IRS flags your account you also have to file form 14039:

http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Indications-your-identity-may-have-been-stolen-and-how-to-report-it-to-us

Form 14039:
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf

IRS Identity Theft Hotline: 1-800-908-4490

All of these things that I’ve listed are free.  Let me know if you have any other tips/tricks.  Here’s a good article regarding SSN theft for additional reading:

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/what-to-do-ssn-stolen,news-18742.html

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