How Do I Prevent Identity Theft Without Paying For It?

Common sense and new technology can go a long way in preventing identity theft and detecting it early. The key is to be pro-active.


Many identity protection strategies come at little or not cost. With 1 exception, all of the tips below are FREE.

The only piece of advice I will get into that costs money is this: sign up with an identity protection service such as LifeLock, Identity Guard, ID Watchdog, Identity Force, Trusted ID, or ProtectMyID. Do your research first, educate yourself, and shop around.

Make sure the monitoring service you choose actively monitors your credit, alerts you to suspected fraud, and provides insurance or financial guarantees if your identity is compromised.

Here are 2 links to help you with your homework:

FREE Identity Protection


Here are the top 5 FREE ways to protect your identity.

  1. Set up ‘Fraud Alerts’ with 1 of the 3 credit reporting agencies. According to the Federal Trade Commission, once you report the alert to one of them, they are required to extend it to the other two. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are the three credit bureaus that you should be concerned with.

A fraud alert will not freeze your credit, but it will make it more difficult for someone to open new lines of credit in your name. I have fraud alerts on my credit, and I often get calls from credit companies when I apply for a car loan or a new credit line.

A credit freeze would mean that no lines of credit can be opened. You would need to go through the process of un-freezing your credit to purchase a car or finance that new kitchen. Fraud alerts are softer, but more automated.

  1. Watch and protect your mail – Did an important document like a W-2 Form fail to arrive? Did Someone else’s financial information arrive to your home unexpectedly? There could be a problem.

Not only will criminals steal your personal information from your mailbox, they will open lines of credit and file other peoples’ tax returns and use your address. That information is then taken when you are not paying attention.

The key is to collect your mail every day and as soon as possible. When you travel, have the Post Office hold your mail.


  1. REFUSE to allow businesses to use your Social Security Number! – Hospitals are businesses. They hire people. People can be complacent. People can steal things.

During a visit to the ER a few years ago, I was shocked at how the nurses LOUDLY repeated customers Social Security Numbers to the patients as they arrived checked in. Anyone could sit in the busy ER and write down names and Socials as people came in.

After sub-par service and having the hospital refuse to allow me to speak to management about the problem, I went back used their security breach against them.

I sat in the lobby, wrote down the last name and last 4 numbers of people’s information. 5 minutes later, I went up to the people and showed them their information and how I obtained it. Needless to say, management was then willing to speak with me about my problem and security policies were changed to protect the public’s information.

  1. Do NOT open unknown emails and NEVER click on unknown attachments – Once spyware is downloaded onto your computer, everything is at risk. Your passwords can be stolen. Your financial information can be compromised. Your webcam can even be hacked. If your computer is on, someone can go into your webcam to see what is going on in your home!
  2. Use FREE websites to track your finances. I use, which is powered by the same company as Turbo Tax. It may be a bit of a pain to get started if you have multiple bank and credit card accounts, but that makes it even more worth it. logs into all of your accounts and presents every transaction on one web page. You can easily sort them by date, amount, expense category, or the company you paid.

If you have multiple accounts, it is perfect to help you monitor for fraud.

I had not used my Microsoft account in years, suddenly, I noticed $150 in charges for Xbox points. Instead of having to log into all of my credit card accounts and bank accounts, I just logged into I receive alerts when I spend more than normal for a particular expense category and when I get hit with bank fees as well.

I use to track my credit score in real time. Credit Karma allows you to track the variables that contribute to higher and lower credit scores.


Having “Jr” on the end of my name, my debts are often confused with my parents’ accounts. When my average age of credit lines dropped on Credit Karma, I checked the credit bureaus and noticed that my parents opened a new credit card that was mistakenly attributed to me. Our names are almost identical, so it happens from time to time.

Credit Karma also lays out other impacts on your credit score in the order of importance, such as credit utilization, payment history, derogatory marks, age of credit, total accounts, and credit inquiries. The different categories are then detailed for you with grades from poor to excellent.

TransUnion and Equifax both feed into, giving you a fairly accurate snapshot of your credit situation. Best of all, it is FREE!