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Free Services to Help Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

I went to an excellent program the other day by the Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection about protecting yourself from identity theft. It was very enlightening.

In addition to a lot of best practices, like not carrying around your social security number in your wallet and shredding all unwanted personally identifiable documents, I learned about several free services which can help you protect your privacy. And you can register for of them all right now from the comfort of your computer or phone.

You may already know about these, but they are definitely worth repeating.

  • Stop pre-approved credit card offers by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. Complete the registration to opt out for five years. You can also opt out permanently by mailing the Opt-Out Election form available through the website.

  • Wisconsinites can register their phone numbers for Wisconsin's No Call list which limits the calls received from telemarketers. Call 1-866-9NO-CALL or sign up online at NoCall.Wisconsin.Gov. Your number will remain on the list for two years. It was suggested that you put a reminder on your calendar to re-register annually so you don't ever risk falling off the list.

  • Check your credit report regularly. You can get one free report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You may request them by calling 1-877-322-8228 or going online at www.annualcreditreport.com.

    It was recommend that you not request them all at once form all three agencies, but rather, that you stagger them every four months. So, for example, you'd request one from one company in Dec, another from the second company in April, and another from the third company in August.

There are lots of other good tips on the Office of Privacy Protection web site at www.privacy.wi.gov. They also have tips on what to do if you are ever a victim of identity theft.