Prevent Identity Theft

How Can I Prevent Identity Theft?

How do you prevent identity theft? How can someone steal your identity? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Follow our tips to prevent identity theft

Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years - and their hard-earned money - cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.

I Have a Computer and Use the Internet. What Should I Be Concerned About?

If you're storing personal information such as SSNs, financial records, tax returns, birth dates, or bank account numbers in your computer, the following tips can help you keep your computer and your personal information safe from intruders:

  • Virus protection software should be updated regularly.
  • Do not open files sent to you by strangers, or click on hyperlinks or download programs from people you don't know. Be careful about using file sharing programs.
  • Use a firewall program, especially if you use a high-speed Internet connection like cable, DSL or T-1 that leaves your computer connected to the Internet 24 hours a day.
  • Use a secure browser software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet to guard your online transactions.
  • Try not to store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary.
  • Before you dispose of a computer, delete all the personal information it stored. Deleting files using the keyboard or mouse commands or reformatting your hard drive may not be enough because the files may stay on the computer's hard drive, where they may be retrieved easily. Use a "wipe" utility program like WipeDrive to overwrite the entire hard drive.
  • Look for web site privacy policies. They should answer questions about maintaining accuracy, access, security, and control of personal information collected by the site, how the information will be used.

How Can I Prevent Identity Theft from Happening to Me?

As with any crime, you can't guarantee that you will never be a victim, but you can minimize your risk. By managing your personal information widely (all instances with personal information), cautiously, and with an awareness of the issue, you can help guard against identity theft.

Prevent Identity Theft - Tips

  • Review your Credit report at least once a year for any inaccuracies. Scrutinize the "inquiries" section of your report.
  • Purchase a shredder. Shred all documents with personal information before throwing them away.
  • Monitor your bank statements. Monitor your account statements on a monthly basis to ensure they arrive at the scheduled time and there are no discrepancies.
  • Do not send mail using your unsecured mailbox. If you have payments to send, mail them at your local post office.
  • If your driver's license number is the same as your Social Security number, have your license number changed. Not all states will do this. However, there are states that give you an option. Check with your Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Do not preprint your Social Security Number on your checks.
  • Don't carry your Social Security Card in your wallet or purse.
  • Keep items that contain your personal information in a safe place.
  • Keep good records of all bills, credit card statements, bank statements, and your purchases. The more information you keep, the better you will be at tracking identity theft.
  • You may want to consider opting out of unsolicited credit offers. You can call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) to opt out of receiving pre-screened credit card offers. All three major credit bureaus use this same toll free number.

Prevent Identity Theft - Credit Agencies

You can check your credit report to spot identity theft. Here is a list of the three major credit reporting agencies:

Credit Agency Order Credit Report Report Fraud
Equifax (800) 685-1111 (800) 525-6285
TransUnion (800) 916-8800 (800) 680-7289
Experian (888) 397-3742 (888) 397-3742