Consumer advocates have figured out a way to stop identity fraud before thieves ever get a chance to use our names. By request, all credit bureaus can put a fraud alert on our names free of charge.
"You can ask for an initial fraud alert which gives you 90 days protection... You can also ask for an extended alert and that provides you protection for 7 years," said Dennis Horton, director of the Northern IL Better Business Bureau.
Here's how it works: the fraud alert requires every company that issues credit to check with you before allowing anyone to open an account in your name. If the company can't confirm it's actually you who are applying for credit, the account is denied.
"If you are a victim, the extended alert is something you absolutely should do," Horton said.
We can also protect ourselves by shredding all documents that contain personal information.
"Most of that information is taken from when you throw things out in your trash."
We're more likely to fall victim to identity theft at this time of year because of holiday shopping. Every time we make a purchase on our credit cards we put ourselves at risk."
"When there is someone behind you make sure that your credit card is picked up. You don't want to leave it lying on the counter so someone can look at the number."
We can also check our credit for free with each credit bureau.
To access any of the credit services, log on www.experian.com, www.transunion.com, or www.equifax.com