How to Protect Against Identity Theft
Outside of violence identity theft is one of the worst crimes that can happen to us. Over eight million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. Learn how to take basic protective measures against this horrendous violation of our lives and property.
Identity Theft Is a Federal Crime
If you become a victim of identity theft be sure to report it to your local police but also submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) because identity theft is a federal crime in the U.S..
Use a Security Freeze to Prevent Fraudulent Use of Your Credit
Contact all three credit bureaus in writing to initiate a security freeze on your credit reports. That way no one will be able to get credit in your name because the firm being asked for credit by the thief will be unable to get a credit report and will see that your file is frozen. Look up the law in your state to determine the procedures and fees, if any (usually $10 or less per credit bureau).
Protect Your Mail
Never mail anything from your personal mailbox. Always take your outgoing mail to a secure drop box or a post office. Pick up your personal mail as soon as possible after delivery. Have the post office hold your mail while you are away. Pick up bank checks from your bank instead of having them mailed to you.
Protect Your Papers in Your Home
Shred all financial and related identity papers when no longer needed. Keep related current files under lock and key so a visitor or workman won't have access to them. Keep critical papers such as loan documents, insurance policies, social security cards, etc. in a bank safe deposit box.
Protect Credit, Debit and ATM Cards
Destroy all such cards that you no longer use or need. Keep ones that you rarely use under lock and key or in a bank safe deposit box. Those that you do need -- don't carry them with you out of the house unless you are certain you will need them. Don't just always have them in a purse or wallet.
Don't Supply Personal Information to Callers
If someone calls you and you don't know them, they could be misrepresenting themselves and trying to obtain your personal information. No matter how tempting, don't give them any personal or identifying information over the phone. Remember, you did not call them.
Protect Your Identity Online
Don't fall victim to "phishing", the fraudulent attempt to get you to reveal passwords or other personal or financial information by email or instant message. Some of these are very sophisticated and are only detectable because the criminal can't spell.
Links to Additional Resources
The following websites contain information that should be helpful in protecting you against identity theft.
Final Tips to Protect Against Identity Theft
- At least once a year get credit reports from all three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax to make sure there are no signs of identity theft.
- Always be alert to scams and the threat of credit fraud or identity theft.
- Remember: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
- It could happen to you! Learn what to do if it does.