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How to Discover and Recover from Identity Theft
Follow these three simple steps to help you and your spouse steer clear of identity theft.

Lock down your identity with a few simple steps.

Since you can’t protect yourself and your family completely from identity theft, make sure that you monitor the signs! Heading into a new year people make many resolutions that they may or may not stick with, but protecting your identity should always be a top priority. Here are three effective tips to help discover and recover quickly if you, your spouse or anyone in your family becomes the victim of identity theft:

1. Create a Dossier: For these purposes, a dossier is a collection of documents that are stored in a fire safe that you regularly review and update. It is a paper summary of your identity as the outside world sees it (businesses, organizations and governments). It is made up of several key documents: your credit report, bank and credit card statements, Social Security statement, wallet photocopies and your password list.

Virtually any of your vital documents could be included in your dossier as well (birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc.). A dossier is a place where you can quickly access a complete record of your vital information in case your identity is stolen and you will have the necessary account and phone numbers at hand to cancel credit cards, bank accounts and to file credit disputes—all very quickly.

2. Order and Monitor Your Credit Report: Set up regular calendar reminders every four months for your next credit report. A credit report is a historical record of how you pay off the money you borrowed from others. There are three main credit bureaus in the United States—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Credit bureaus track your credit history, generate credit scores and produce credit reports—all for sale to other businesses. If you own a home, have a credit card, lease a car or apply for or use credit of any sort, this information is reported to one, two or all three of these credit bureaus. In addition, they collect information on how timely you pay your bills, how often you are tardy, how frequently your credit is checked by companies and any changes of address, employment or personal information.

By monitoring these reports closely, you will know when someone else is using your credit file to their benefit. If an identity thief opens a new credit card or loan on your Social Security number, you will see it on your report. The quicker you spot the problem, the less trouble it will cause. You can also sign up for an identity monitoring service and identity theft insurance.

3. Set up Account Alerts: Locate your bank, credit card and investment accounts and make sure you check your monthly statements for any suspicious activity. Account alerts automatically notify you by e-mail or text message (to your cell phone) when a transaction is made on your account. For example, if you make a purchase on your credit card, it will automatically send you an alert detailing how much was spent, where you spent it and on what date. They will also alert you when a payment is due or is not received on time, or when private information is changed on the account (often a sign of fraud). Alerts are a simple way to keep track of credit card usage, bank transfers, low account balances, investment moves and a handful of other helpful tasks without doing any extra work.

These three simple changes make a world of difference when it comes to protecting you or your spouse’s identity. Early detection will save you time and money in the long run. Make it a priority for a safe, successful and headache free year!

John Sileo became America's leading identity theft speaker & expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To further bulletproof yourself and your business, visit John's blog at Sileo.com. To book John at your next event, visit www.ThinkLikeaSpy.com.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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