Let’s start by saying that if you have been a victim of identity theft, you may want to consider utilizing an identity theft protection service such as LifeLock or IdentityGuard. If you have not, or simply cannot afford to pay for the services, you can monitor your own credit and take steps to avoid being a victim.
You can check your own credit reports every 12 months. There are three major credit reporting agencies which include Transunion, Experian and Equifax. If you stagger your requests to each of these agencies, you will have a credit report every four months.
Aside from the ability to see your credit report, you can sign up for free credit services through each of the credit bureaus. All three allow you to lock and unlock your credit report for free. This limits who can view your report including landlords, creditors, lenders (when you apply for new credit) and employers. If you apply for credit or a new place to live you can unlock it for just that period-of-time. Some give you the ability to unlock for only a specific inquirer. This gives you more control of who can access your report.
If you believe you have been a victim or have lost personal items such as your social security card, you can put a fraud alert on your credit reports. By doing so, if your reports are requested for new accounts or credit, the inquirer will be notified that they will need to take further steps to verify the identity of the person requesting the new account or credit.