Companies may offer to block or freeze your credit, for a fee. This refers to blocking access to your credit report so that no one else can obtain credit in your name. States have difference policies on credit freezing. Some allow all consumers to freeze their credit; others offer it only to those who have been victims of identity theft. Remember that you are entitled to freeze your credit at no charge if you have been victimized. If you are freezing your credit as a precautionary measure, you will be required to pay.
A credit freeze means that new creditors and third parties are denied access to your credit report, making it difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Existing creditors and their collection agencies will continue to have access, meaning that your existing credit cards sand bank accounts are still at risk. If you intend to apply for a new loan or some other form of credit while a freeze is in place, you will need to lift it temporarily using a PIN provided by the credit agencies. Lifting the freeze also involves paying a fee.
Other companies offer credit monitoring services, which keep an eye on your accounts and alert you to any new accounts opened or inquiries made. This is not designed to prevent identity theft. By the time you are alerted, the theft may have already occurred. It is not foolproof. The monitoring does not necessarily account for new activity in existing unused accounts. It also may not cover all three credit reporting agencies.
Helping you rebuild your financial record after having your identity stolen can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, and there are companies that will assist you with it, for a price. This can involve obtaining a limited power of attorney to act on your behalf for the duration of the process. However, some institutions and law enforcement agencies insist on dealing only with the victim and not a representative.
Consumers can also purchase identity theft insurance. Insurance will not cover losses that result directly from the identity theft, but may cover some the cost of rebuilding your identity, such as the cost of phone calls, photocopying and mailing documents. These policies do not compensate you for the time you take off work to deal with identity theft issues and in many cases do not cover any legal fees you may incur. Identity theft insurance deductibles also vary; some may be higher than the actual cost of recovering your identity.
Before signing up for or purchasing any products or services, do your research. Check with your credit card companies and banks to see what services they offer for free. Most credit card companies offer some form of monitoring service and will contact you if they notice a charge that look suspicious or questionable. Credit monitoring is also something that you can and should do yourself by requesting copies of your credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies. This will enable you to monitor the activity on existing accounts as well as check for new, unauthorized accounts.