Harry Gross: Identifying ways to avoid identity theft

Posted: February 21, 2013

DEAR HARRY: I'm a young, married guy whose mother got hit with identity theft a year ago. It was a problem, but it got straightened out with zero loss to her. It was emotionally aggravating, however, and she did need a visit to her doctor. I want to avoid that as much as possible. I see all kinds of ads for companies that will do that for me, but they seem to be more about boasting than protecting. There have to be things I can do for myself. Help!

WHAT HARRY SAYS: The most important thing is to be alert so you can catch a stolen identity before it gets too far. Get an annual credit report from each of the major reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Do it by going to annualcreditreport.com - not freecreditreport (which is largely a push for costly monitoring). If you find or suspect new debt that's not yours, freeze your credit reports so no one can use your report. Contact the reporting agencies to do this. The cost is minor, and it usually is waived for those who are at least 65. It helps because any new accounts will be subject to a credit review that they will be unable to get. Keep your fears under control with the knowledge that ID theft is rare; fewer than 1 percent of debtors reported ID theft or attempted ID theft in 2010. That's the latest figure I have, but I have no doubt that it has not increased.


Email Harry Gross at harrygrossDN@gmail.com or write to him at the Daily News, 801 Market St., Philadelphia 19107.

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