The more information I gathered for this column, the clearer it became that there is no way to be completely safe. So use my suggestions to help you find your personal comfort level. Then check your credit report for free three times a year at annualcreditreport.com; pull your report from Equifax this month, from Experian four months later and from TransUnion four months after that. If that’s not enough for you to feel at ease, consider putting a renewable fraud alert on your accounts at the three credit bureaus. It’s free and lasts 90 days, at which point you have to repeat the process. Or you can put a security freeze on your accounts. It costs $10 in most states to put it on and take it off; if you’ve been the victim of a fraud, the freeze is free. To do it, go to the Web sites of each of the bureaus: alerts.equifax.com, experian.com/fraud and transunion.com, then follow the link to “personal,” and you’ll find the fraud alert link on the left side of the page.
Jean Chatzky is More’s finance columnist and the author of several books. Read more of her advice here.