With the threat of identity theft ever-present, here are some things you can do to keep your credit protected.
1. Never reveal personal information over the phone or the internet.
Identity thieves are criminals who prey on other people’s personal information, such as their social security number, credit card information, bank account information, and online account log-in information (including information that will help them steal your passwords, such as your pet’s name or mother’s maiden name). If you do not understand why a business would need your social security number or similar information, don’t give it out.
2. Shred sensitive information.
Bank receipts and discarded deposit slips are a goldmine for thieves and should never get tossed in a public trash bin. When ordering new checks, request to have your first initial printed in the corner instead of your full name, to make it harder for forgeries to occur. Checks should never be printed with your social security number on them. Junk mail and credit card offers are also potential threats, and should always go through a paper shredder before being thrown out.
3. Keep paper copies of everything in your wallet.
Take a trip to the library or use your office copier to make paper copies of everything in your wallet. Keep these duplicates in a safe spot so you can reference your driver’s license and credit card numbers if you ever lose your wallet or have it stolen. Make sure to photocopy the backs of your credit cards too, which contain the customer service phone numbers to call to deactivate the cards.
4. If you discover or suspect that your identity has been compromised, call the local authorities.
Once you’ve deactivated your cards, filing a police report legitimizes your claim and opens an investigation to find and stop the thief. Also, make a report with the fraud department at the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration. To stop further attacks to your credit, alert the three credit reporting bureaus to block the use of your social security number and name on any new credit applications.
5. Insure your identity.
Insurance companies offer identity theft policies to individuals who want added protection. These policies cover the costs of unauthorized purchases and restoring your credit. Sometimes identity theft protection is included with homeowners insurance or it can be added as an endorsement to a renter’s or homeowner’s policy.
Nearly 100,000 people each year have their identity stolen, according to Federal Trade Commission statistics. Just one bank slip or piece of mail can lead to having your credit destroyed by an identity thief. Take the time to put preventative measures in place, and keep your identity safe.