Protect and be aware of where your personal identification is kept and/or who has it.
Keep your purse, wallet and financial documents (credit cards, checkbook, etc) on or near your person, or secure them when they are not in your direct control.
Limit the number of personal identification and credit cards you carry. Memorize your PIN numbers and Social Security number and do not carry them in your purse or wallet.
Treat your checks and credit cards as if they were cash. Cancel any unneeded credit cards. Promptly sign your credit cards when you receive them and mark on them “Check ID” near the signature.
Do not put your Date of Birth, phone number(s), driver’s license number, or Social Security number on your checks. Do not use any of these numbers as your password for any of your financial accounts, email accounts, or any other accounts that need passwords.
Never give out personal information about yourself, a family member, a friend or a fellow co-worker in response to unsolicited offers by phone, mail, Internet, or in person unless you are sure who is requesting the information. Also, ask how your information will be used and if it will be shared with others. Can you choose to keep it confidential?
Shred all discarded paperwork containing any personal identification information about you, your family and/or business accounts. This prevents “Dumpster Diving” by thieves.
When mailing bills, tax documents, or other mail containing any personal information, a check, credit card information, your signature, etc., mail it from a Post Office collection box or at your local Post Office.
Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it is delivered. If you will be gone, even for a day, cancel mail delivery or ask a trusted person to retrieve your mail. Consider having new check orders delivered to your financial institution or Post Office box where you can pick them up, instead of your mailbox.
When using an ATM machine, gas pump, self check out or similar device, be mindful of your surroundings. Cover your hand as you input your PIN number. Thieves may monitor your activities from afar using binoculars, or by placing a small camera in a location that can view you input your PIN. This is often done in conjunction with a device that will obtain the information from your ATM or credit card when you insert it into the electronic device. By shielding your input on the keypad, you will deter if not prevent the thief from obtaining your PIN number.
Review in detail all of your monthly statements for unauthorized use. Keep track of your billing cycles to make sure that you receive all of your monthly statements. A missing statement could mean that an identity thief has taken over your credit account and changed your address to cover his/her tracks.
If you use the Internet and provide your personal information, whether it is for purchases, opening accounts or paying on accounts, confirm that the company or entity you are dealing with is a legitimate company. Check the “Address” bar where the http:// is located. Confirm in the address bar there is an “s” (https://), and a small padlock that is closed or “locked” in the lower right corner of the web browser. This is an indication that the website should be a “secure” site. Further, when dealing with a website, check to see if it lists a phone number and address for the business so you can check with the Better Business Bureau or another agency to confirm their existence and reliability.
Be ever mindful of security when using your computer or accessing the Internet even if you do not use online financial accounts. If you keep personal data on your computer, a “Hacker” could access your computer if proper safeguards are not taken, and they can retrieve your personal information. At a minimum, you should have up to date anti-virus protection and a personal “firewall” installed on your computer. The subscriptions and definitions for the anti virus and firewall protection should be kept current. remember – if all your passwords, PIN’s, account numbers, etc. are stored in one location, it only takes one successful try to take everything.
Even if you take every precaution, your identity can still be stolen. To this end, you must be ever vigilant and keep track of your credit history and rating.
Order and review your personal credit report at least annually. It is beneficial to order a credit report from each of the three main credit companies due to reporting inconsistencies that sometimes occur. They are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Make sure that each report is accurate and includes only the activities that you have authorized.
As of March 1, 2005, you can obtain one free annual credit report . You can request your free report:
Phone: 1-877-322-8228, or
Mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281