Consumer Tips

Protecting Against Identity Theft

Protection, detection and resolution are said to the best defense against identity theft. Learn how to prevent identity theft from happening to you.

Secure Your Personal Information
  • Use a cross cut shredder to turn documents containing personal and financial information into confetti.
  • Lock up your wallet or purse at work, and never leave it in your vehicle.
  • Avoid giving out any personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call, even if the person calling seems to have detailed information about your accounts.
  • Don't carry identification that includes your Social Security number (SSN). If a business requests your SSN, question whether it is really necessary. If they insist, ask if you can provide only part of the number, such as the last four digits.
  • Don't print your driver's license number, phone number, or SSN on your checks. Print only your first initial (instead of first name) and last name on your checks.
  • Don't put your complete credit card account number on your check when you pay your bill. Instead just put the last four numbers.
  • Read privacy notices from your financial institutions for instructions on how to say "no" to information sharing.
Secure Your Mail
  • Install a locked mailbox or use a post office box to receive your mail, especially if it arrives while you're not home.
  • Stop paper bills.
  • Place outgoing mail in an official US Postal Service mailbox. These mailboxes are locked and tend to be more tamper proof than your personal mailbox.
Secure Your Computer
  • Create difficult passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters -- not your name, address, birth date, or anything that would be easily guessed.
  • Don't store passwords on your computer or write them down where others may easily find them. Keep them somewhere secure -- hide them in a locked drawer, for example.
  • Never respond to e-mails requesting personal information, or click on links to popular Web sites asking you to verify your information. Type in the correct Web address and go directly to those sites to log in instead.

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Secure Your Credit
  • Review your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year.
  • Consider using a credit monitoring service to notify you of changes to your credit information.
  • Monitor your financial accounts online and set up e-mail or cell phone alerts for unusual activity.