There are 4 absolute things you must do to protect yourself from identity theft.

  1. Set up transaction alerts through your bank and credit cards. Almost all financial institutions will alert you when money is withdrawn or deducted from your credit/banking account via text, e-mail or both. Set the dollar amount “alert” as little as a penny, if possible. If your account is compromised by an identity thief, they may initially only charge a very small amount to see if it’s viable. Then they may wait a weeks or months before hijacking your account. So question even the smallest amount of charges or withdrawals when you know you didn’t make those changes.
  2. Monitor activity on your accounts as often as possible. Many banks use the time that passes between the fraud and its discovery to determine how much money you will get back from them. The shorter that time frame, the more you will be reimbursed. Bank accounts are not like credit cards. Consumers are usually only responsible for $50 of any fraud against a credit card. Conversely, bank accounts that become victim to identity theft might not be reimbursed at all unless it’s caught in a timely manner.
  3. Watch over your credit. Consumers are entitled by law to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union) annually. That’s a total of three free credit reports a year. To get the, log onto this website: https://www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the ONLY source for free credit reports that is authorized by federal law. Do not Google “Free credit reports” as it will only take you to the sites looking to profit from selling you a ‘free” credit report. Instead of getting all three at the same time, stagger them throughout the year. For example, get one from Experian in January, another from Equifax in June and the third from Trans Union in October.
  4. Finally, think about putting a “freeze” on your credit through the credit bureaus. This service only costs you $10 and stays on your credit until you lift it yourself. This is especially useful if you do not intent on actively using your credit in the foreseeable future like purchasing a house or a vehicle.

Finally, if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, or have questions, contact the Illinois Attorney General’s office at 1-866-999-5630. Or contact the non-emergency number of the Northlake Police Department: 708-531-5755.

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