How To Check For, Avoid, Prevent, Monitor & Report Identity Theft

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Thief with social security card
Identity theft can result in a lot of time and money lost. Fortunately, there are steps you can take now to minimize chances it will happen to you.

Jane bought a gift for her friend online. A week later that website was hacked, and her personal data was stolen. Random charges started appearing on her credit cards, and her bank account dwindled down to nothing. She was struggling to pay her bills, and it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know what to do, how to get her money back, or how to make it stop.

Too many people find themselves in a situation like this. Fortunately, we can help you protect your identity and monitor it with our tips.

Don’t Be The Next Victim

Last year, identity theft occurred once every 2 seconds. That’s a frightening statistic, and that’s just the beginning of them. We’ve got many more ID theft statistics that not only will scare you but also prove that none of us are exempt from becoming a victim.

Identity theft has become personal for many of us who work for Safe Smart Living. You can read real ID theft examples from our readers (and us!).

Identity Theft Vs Credit Card Fraud: What’s The Difference?

While credit card fraud can be a result of identity theft, the two terms are quite different.

Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud involves the use of your existing credit card or debit card numbers and accounts to make fraudulent purchases or obtain money. Thieves can steal your numbers from unsecured websites or via an ID theft scheme.

While a huge hassle, credit card fraud is much easier to stop and recover from than identity theft. Most credit card companies have a liability limit of $50. This means that if your card or number is stolen, you’ll only have to pay $50, and the credit card company will wipe out any charges resulting from this theft.

Identity Theft

In contrast, identity theft is much broader in scope — and can be much more damaging. Identity thieves can steal your personal information to open a new credit card in your name or a line of credit at a bank (and even get a false ID in your name). Unlike credit card fraud, there’s no liability limit so you could end up having to pay for all the new credit fraudulently opened and charged in your name.

How Can I Monitor My Personal Information For ID Theft?

Investing in ID theft protection is one of the best things you can do to protect your identity from a thief. Identity theft protection monitors your personal information online and notifies you of any suspicious activity. This can include your Social Security number, bank account information, credit cards, loan details, insurance, driver’s license, and more.

There are many companies to turn to for this service, but not all are created equal. We’ve compared the top companies and chosen the best ID theft protection service based on items monitored, price, restoration services, reputation, family/child coverage (children can be identity theft victims), and mobile access.

Monitor Your Credit Score & Report

Another step to monitoring the safety of your identity is to check your credit report and score regularly. A credit report has information about your credit activity and current standing.

A credit score is a number based on the information in your report — the higher your credit score, the better. Lenders use this number to decide if they want to work with you.

If you see that your credit score has suddenly taken a hit, but you have a good credit history, there may be cause for concern. Someone may have opened a line (or two, or more) of credit in your name. At least you caught it, thanks to your credit score monitoring, so you can get it fixed sooner rather than later. People who don’t monitor their credit report and score can go months (or even years) without realizing someone stole their identity.

You have many options to monitor your credit. Many identity theft protection companies include credit monitoring in their top-tier packages. You can also purchase it separately through one of the companies listed in our best credit monitoring service comparison.

Ways To Protect Your Identity

There are other ways to protect your identity that don’t necessarily cost money.


Did you know you should be using a virtual private network (VPN) every time you connect to public WiFi? Consider this the next time you use your favorite coffee shop’s internet. We have an entire section on VPN where we discuss the top providers, step-by-step setup instructions, practical tips on public WiFi security, and more.

RFID Wallets

A man holding contactless credit card in a wallet with RFID protection
RFID (radio frequency identification) wallets can supposedly protect your cards from getting scanned. But do they really work?

RFID wallets block criminals from reading your card’s RFID chip with an RFID reader. All they have to do comes within inches of you, and then they’re all set to go shopping or sell your information.

RFID theft is possibly one of the scariest ways to have your identity stolen. Just think about all the people you pass on your way to work, going grocery shopping, etc. You may want to consider getting an RFID wallet, but first, find out if RFID wallets really work and read our reviews of the best RFID wallets. Speaking of wallets, here are the steps you should take if you lose yours.

Spoof Calls

Spoof calls blowing up your phone is frustrating. You answer the phone, only to find out it’s some scam artist trying to take your personal information or money. We’ve got an article dedicated to how to stop spoofing calls.

Cybercrime Prevention, 2FA, And Social Media Identity Theft

Our cybercrime prevention guide explains why you shouldn’t pay for your gas at the pump and why you should sign up for two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA adds an additional identity check to confirm it’s you, such as sending you a text on your cell phone.

Could passwords become obsolete? Logging into our accounts tomorrow could mean scanning your fingerprint or iris on your iPhone instead of entering a password. Protecting this information (known as zero-knowledge proof) is much easier than protecting a 12-digit password.

Also be aware of social media identity theft, where fake profiles are created to scam others.

Smart Home Devices Need Protecting Too

With each smart home gadget you purchase, it means there’s one more opportunity for a hacker to weasel their way into your home. Fortunately, there’s a way for you to protect your smart home gadgets through the use of a smart home firewall.

Smart home firewalls protect your devices against hackers, malware, and viruses. If you’re a smart home fanatic, your privacy is at risk. That’s why we recommend you read about the best smart firewall.

Should I Get Identity Theft Insurance?

As an added precaution, you can sign-up for identity theft insurance, which will reimburse you for the cost of restoring your identity after it’s stolen. This includes lost wages, phone bills, notary and certified mailing costs, and attorney fees. We discuss this further and some companies to choose from in our ID theft insurance article.

Before signing up for ID theft insurance, you should check with your identity theft protection service (if you have one) to see what its restoration services entail. Many monitoring services offer restoration services, so insurance may not be needed.

Latest Data Breach News

Unfortunately, there are security breaches happening regularly with major retailers, credit card companies, and other organizations. We’ve compiled a summary of recent major data breaches so you can stay up to date, including how you might be affected and what you can do about it.

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Disclaimer: Information regarding insurance company offerings, pricing, availability, and other contract details are subject to change by the insurance company at any time and are not under the control of this website. Information published on this website is intended for reference use only. Please review your policy carefully before signing up for a new insurance contract or any other contract as your unique circumstances will differ from those of others who may be used for example purposes in this article.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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