Wired.com’s How-To Wiki has published the following tips for helping consumers fight identity theft:
1. You can opt out of pre-screened credit card mailings by calling 888-5OPTOUT ( 888-567-8688 ). This stops identity thieves from stealing your mail and getting credit lines in your name.
2. You should check your credit reports regularly. US federal law allows you to request a free credit report from each of the three credit bureau providers once a year.
3. Active duty military personnel can automatically put a one-year alert on all three of their credit reports by contacting one of them: Equifax – 800-525-6285; Experian – 888-397-3742; TransUnion – 800-680-7289.
4. Study your credit, debit and banking statements each month. If you fail to report fraudulent activity on your cards or checking accounts within 60 days, your liability is not capped.
5. People who are really concerned about identity theft can place a renewable 90-day fraud alert on their credit reports for free by phone, however, this service is intended to be for people who suspect they are the victims of identity theft. Credit issuers then have to take steps to verify your identification.
6. Victims of identity theft should file a police report and send a letter requesting a seven-year fraud alert on their reports. This alert requires creditors to contact you before issuing a line of credit.
7. As of November 2007, all 50 states allow individuals to place credit freezes on their credit reports. This stops card issuers from looking at your credit report until you allow the credit bureaus to unlock it. In many states the unlocking can take anywhere from three to five days. Some states like New Jersey and Utah are working to make the unlocking process faster.
More information on fighting identity theft is available at FTC.gov.