Privacy in Peril

Identity Maintenance

Illustration: Stuart Bradford
Though nothing can absolutely prevent identity theft, these tips can reduce your exposure--or help you recover should you become a victim.

Inventory your wallet's contents: That way, you'll have a list of whom to call in case it gets stolen. Remove anything with a Social Security number.

Consider a credit-monitoring service: If you get one, make sure it covers all three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Order a free credit report every four months: The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you one free report per year per credit reporting agency. Order them only at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Minors are at risk: Most don't have a credit report, and a credit agency won't freeze a minor's credit until one exists. If an ID thief requests credit in the kid's name, the agency will create a report (but you may never hear about it). If you suspect that your child's data has been used, you can e-mail TransUnion at childidtheft@transunion.com.

Are you a victim? Renew the 90-day fraud alerts placed on your credit reports. Smart thieves have been known to wait until after the 90-day alert expires to start causing trouble.

See the Complete Special Report

The New Security War: In This Special Package
Best Defenders and Spy Sweeper Leads the Field (chart)
The Hidden Money Trail
Privacy in Peril
Is the Net Doomed?
Threat Alert: Spear Phishing
Threat Alert: Antivirus Killers
Threat Alert: Instant Messaging Attacks
10-Step Security
Security by the Numbers
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Also See Our In-Depth Online Series
Web of Crime

Alan Stafford is PC World's senior writer.

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