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Identity Theft: New Ways to Protect Your Personal Information

I recently wrote about the danger of children becoming victims of identity theft. While researching that blog post, I learned that all ID fraud is rising and that everyone should take some precautions to guard against this crime.

I already take some preventative measures to protect myself and my family from ID thieves. I shred all of my credit card receipts and junk mail solicitations. I'm careful to monitor my bank accounts. I read through all of my bills looking for any suspicious activity. And I also scan my credit reports on a regular basis. What I want to know is if I should be doing more.

The answer is yes, according to Consumer Reports. In a recent issue of its Money Adviser newsletter, the nonprofit recommends a host of tips for folks to follow. Much of the advice you've heard before. For example, you should be careful not to divulge personal information to strangers or while you're surfing the Internet. You should secure your computer and personal devices against hackers. And if you're really paranoid, you can always add a security freeze to your credit reports.

But there was one more tip that I found of particular interest: Money Adviser recommends reviewing all of your personal data files. While this advice may not sound entirely novel, I was surprised to learn how many brokers keep sensitive information on consumers. There are reports monitoring our banking use, medical history, driving records and home rental payments. If you get copies of these reports, you can look for irregularities, which could mean someone is using your identity to work, tap health benefits or secure an apartment.

Where can you find your personal data files? Here are five lesser known reports you should request:

1. LexisNexis Full File Disclosure
Think of LexisNexis Risk Solutions as the Big Brother of personal data collectors. It tracks public records, auto and homeowner claims reports, pre-employment background checks, criminal records, evictions and address history.

2. MIB Consumer File
Want to know what the life insurance companies see when they are deciding whether to underwrite your policy? They contact MIB for your medical conditions and tests, any hazardous hobbies you participate in and for your driving records.

3. Medical and Prescription Drug History
Believe it or not, someone may be using your identity or health insurance information to get their hands on pills and other drugs. Contact Intelliscript (877-211-4816) and Medpoint (888-206-0335) for your full prescription history for the past five years.

4. Banking Reports
Just in case someone is writing bad checks with your name on them, it's a good idea to monitor your files from ChexSystems and TeleCheck. They maintain data on mishandled and overdrawn checking accounts.

5. Rental History Reports
Even if you're a homeowner it's a good idea to request your rental history in case someone is using your personal data to secure an apartment or other rental property. Best way to look for any problems is to contact CoreLogic SafeRent or RentBureau.

As I mentioned earlier, it's also a good idea to check your credit reports, which you can do for free through annualcreditreports.com. Also make sure to read through your Social Security statements and your driving records, which you can get from your division of motor vehicles for a small fee.

Do you actively try to guard against identity theft? What's your game plan?

Stacey L. Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal. Personal Guidebook for New Parents.

Identity Theft image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
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