Most identity theft victims have fallen prey to people they know well, people who have physical access to their personal information. In most states, there is an easy method to protecting yourself: credit report locking. It's like putting your identity in a safety deposit box and suddenly only you have the key.
Make sure you're in a state that allows you to freeze your credit. At the time of publication, the states allowing credit freezing were: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Washington.
Check if you're in a state that requires you to already be a victim. If you live in Texas, Vermont, Illinois or Washington, you can freeze your credit only if you have already fallen victim to identity theft or a security breach at your financial institution.
Freeze your credit with Equifax. Call 800-685-1111 to find out the most current fees and mailing addresses. Send your request via certified mail and include your name, current and former address, Social Security number and date of birth. If you are already a victim of identity theft, you will have to include a valid copy of the police report, investigative report or complaint that you filed with a law enforcement agency.
Freeze your credit with Experian. Call 888-397-3742 to find its current Security Freeze mailing address and what fees apply. Via certified mail, you will need to send your full name, current address and home addresses for the past five years, Social Security number, birthdate and two proofs of residence such as a copy of your driver's license, utility bill, insurance statement and bank statement. If you're an identity theft victim, you will also need to include a valid copy of the police report, investigative report or complaint filed with your law enforcement agency.
Freeze your credit with TransUnion. Call 888-909-8872 to get its current Security Freeze mailing address and find out what fees apply. Send your current address and home addresses for the last five years along with Social Security number and birthdate either via regular or certified mail. Again, identity theft victims must include a valid copy of the police report, investigative report or complaint filed with a law enforcement agency.
Anyone — in any state — can request fraud protection through one of the credit reporting agencies. Fraud protection is not the same as locking your credit but it can help.