Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft – when someone uses personal data to do anything from fraudulently opening a new bank account to deceiving the police – is a crime on the rise in the U.S.  Due to this increased prevalence, it is important to know how to best protect yourself from becoming a victim.  Below are some tips to hopefully help keep your identity safe.

  • Check yourself out: Review your credit report periodically for accuracy via websites like www.annualcreditreport.com
  • Secure your Social Security number: Never carry your SS card with you unless you'll need it. Don't have your SSN preprinted on your checks or give it out over the phone unless you initiate the call to an organization you trust.
  • Don't leave home with it: Carry only the cards and/or checks you'll need for any one trip, including debit, credit, and health insurance cards.
  • Keep your receipts: Don't throw them away or leave them behind as it may contain your credit/debit card number. Don't leave them in a shopping bag in your car in case it is broken into.
  • Shred it: Shred financial records with a cross-cut shredder when disposing.
  • Keep a low profile: Consider removing your name from most national mailing, e-mailing, and direct marketing lists and adding it to the Do Not Call Registry.  Refuse to allow the sharing of your financial information with other organizations.
  • Take a byte out of crime: Install a firewall to prevent hackers from obtaining information from your hard drive, install virus protection software, and update everything on a regular basis. If you provide personal or financial information about yourself over the Internet, do so only on secure websites; to determine if a site is secure, look for a URL that begins with "https" (instead of "http") or a lock icon on the browser's status bar.