Andrea Ferrero knows that pain.
Like so many other victims, someone stole her identity.
She heard about it from an identity theft protection service she was enrolled in.
The service told her someone used her information to get a large amount of credit in her name.
“They walked me through the steps to take to dispute the line of credit that had been opened and take care of that,” says Ferrero.
But before you enroll in one of the services, Consumer Reports says know what you’re actually buying.
Some people assume ID protection prevents identity theft in the first place. Consumer Reports Money Editor Margot Gilman cautions, that’s not the case.
“Consumers pretty much have to accept that criminals can get their hands on your personal information no matter what you do. The key is to spot fraudulent activity quickly and then do what you have to do to stop it,” she says.
ID Theft protection services like the one Ferrero subscribes to can help you dispute fraudulent transactions with your bank, credit card companies and other businesses after your identity has been stolen.
It typically costs about $10 to $30-dollars a month.
But the best way to avoid being a victim of this type of new-account fraud is FREE. It’s something you can do yourself.
Freeze your credit with the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion.
No one will be able to open credit, including you, until you unfreeze it.
But keep in mind, freezing your credit won’t prevent all ID theft. For instance, a criminals can still use your personal information to get medical services or steal your tax refund.
So Gilman warns, “It’s critical that consumers themselves keep a careful eye on their financial world -- bank and credit card statements obviously, but also medical records, insurance records, tax records.”
Put your guard up and pay attention. It's our new world!