The following are general guidelines for protecting your identity.
What should I do to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft?
Anybody can become a victim of identity theft; however, there are basic steps you can take to reduce or minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud. Always be very selfish regarding giving out your personal information to others unless you are can trust them.
Things you can do at home to protect yourself
- If someone you don't know contacts you by phone offering you the chance to receive a credit card or a prize and then requests your personal information such as Social Security number, credit card number and expiration date, mother's maiden name, or any other reference to personal data; respond by asking them to never call back and simply hang up the phone.
- Never give personal information to a caller who says they represents your bank. Hang up; then call your bank and tell them the details of what happened.
- Refer to the Better Business Bureau for information regarding questionable scams.
- Destroy or shred old documentation such as bank statements, receipts that show your credit card number, insurance forms, etc.
- Don't carry your Social Security Card in your wallet. Don't have your Social Security Number (SSN) printed on checks or your Driver's license. Always take a "why do you need my Social Security Number" approach to anybody asking for it.
Be aware of your mail
- Watch for missing mail and multiple days of not receiving anything, this can point to somebody stealing it for tidbits of your personal information. If you feel somebody is tampering with your mail, call your local post office. In addition, slow junk mail down by registering with www.dmachoice.org
- Never give personal information to telemarketers who call you on the phone. To cut down on unwanted telemarketing calls, sign up for the Do Not Call Registry online or call (888) 382-1222.
- Call 1 (888) 5-OPT-OUT or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to stop pre-approved credit card applications from being mailed to you. This will help prevent thieves from stealing such mailings in order to establish credit in your name without your awareness.
- Call your local post office and have all your mail held until you arrive back home from traveling, or have a trusted friend or family member pick it up daily on your behalf.
- If you have to telephone someone while you're traveling, find a location away from strangers so they can't eavesdrop on your conversation.
- NEVER do any online banking from public internet kiosks or at internet cafes.
Keep a watchful eye on your credit reports
You are entitled to receive one free credit report each year from each nationwide credit bureau. To get your free credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com
or call 1-877-322-8228.
What shouldn't be there?
- Review for any unauthorized withdrawals on your bank account statements or credit card purchases.
- If someone has managed to get access to your mail or other personal data, and opened any credit cards in your name or taken any funds from your bank account; contact your financial institution or credit card company immediately to report those transactions and to request further action.
See our section about Phishing Scams
Protect your passwords
- Don't share any of your passwords with close friends or family, they may inadvertently allow them to leak out to the wrong people.
- Select a different PIN for each of your accounts.
- Use at least eight characters, including capital letters and numbers, when creating passwords; and avoid easy-to-guess passwords like your mother's maiden name or your dog's name. Change them every month.
- Don't store your passwords in your wallet or purse.