How can you prevent identity theft?

Here are some necessary steps to take to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft:

  • Carefully review credit card statements and utility bills for unauthorized use, soon after receiving them.
  • Consider picking up new checks at a financial institution’s office instead of having them mailed home.
  • When filling out a loan or credit application, be sure that the business either shreds these applications or stores them in locked files.
  • If you do not receive a credit card statement on time (or do not receive a new or renewed credit card when expected), you should call the creditor to see if a change of address request has been filed in your name, or if additional or replacement credit cards have been requested on your account. If either has happened to you, inform the creditor that you did not make the request, and instruct the creditor not to honor it.
  • Avoid carrying a Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, or more than one or two credit cards.
  • Always take credit card, debit card and ATM receipts with you. Never throw them in a public trash container. Tear them up or shred them at home when you no longer need them.
  • Do not leave bill payment envelopes at your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up.
  • Install a lock on your mailbox if you live in an area where mail theft has occurred.
  • Tear up or shred unused preapproved credit card solicitations and convenience checks.
  • Call your credit card company to request they stop sending convenience checks. You can always ask them for a balance transfer option should you want one in the future.
  • Order a free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, and reviewing them for accuracy and indications of fraud. Stagger them throughout the year for a better picture of your credit history.
  • Guard against overuse of your Social Security number. Release it only when necessary. If a business requests your Social Security number, ask to use an alternate number.
  • If a government agency asks for your Social Security number, a Privacy Act notice should accompany the request. This notice will explain whether your Social Security number is required or merely requested; the use that will be made of your Social Security number; and what will happen if you refuse to provide it.
  • When creating passwords and PINs, do not use any part of your Social Security Number, birth date, middle name, wife’s name, child’s name, pet’s name, mother’s maiden name, address, consecutive numbers, or anything that a thief could easily deduce or discover. Memorize all your passwords and PINs; never write them in your wallet, purse, or Rolodex.
  • Shield the keypad when punching in your PIN at an ATM or when placing a calling card call.

Call the post office to see if a change of address request has been filed in your name. If this has happened, immediately notify the Postal Inspector.

Check your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once each year to make sure that someone else is not using your Social Security number for employment.