Learn Identity Theft Protection
Identity thieves have become so creative and talented that no truly perfect protection scheme can be a
guaranteed success. There are, however, many steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of victimization.
Consider the following identity theft prevention practices, all of which can stop some identity theft before it
happens. Although some may be more inconvenient to implement than others, are all recommended. With a few simple
precautions, you can reduce the chance a con artist can go on a spending spree with your money or stealing your
Social Security Number
Your Social Security Number is a key with which much of your identity and information can be unlocked. Guard it
- Use randomly generated alternate numbers for your driver's license if your state allows it
- Do not have your Social Security Number printed on check blanks
- Do not give your social security number to anyone who does not absolutely need it
We have become very casual about the use of our Social Security Numbers, and this has been a great benefit to
identity thieves. If you tend to give away your number without a great deal of consideration, it is time to rethink
Credit and Debit Cards
Although not all stores are sufficiently diligent about comparing receipt signatures to the back of a card,
others are. Identity thieves cannot always be sure whether or not their signature will be compared to the one on
the back of the card. Thus, you should sign your cards immediately upon receiving them. This can act as a
disincentive for use among more "casual" identity thieves. Do not carry more than you need and don't carry extra
check blanks or credit cards you are not planning to use.
- Keep your PIN numbers a secret
- Remember your PIN or personal identification numbers
- Do not write them down
- If you must write them down, leave the list at home. Do not carry it around with you
People who write their PIN numbers on the back of their credit cards are inviting trouble.
- Choose good passwords and PIN numbers
- Choose account passwords and PIN numbers that make it difficult for anybody to guess them
- Avoid easily "cracked" codes like birth dates, common numerical sequences, etc.
Choosing good codes can prevent identity theft even if the would be thief is privy to other parts of your
- When outside the home, be vigilant about keeping your wallet or purse on your person
- keep those materials in a safe and secured place when in your place of work
- At home, put documents containing personal information in a safe if you have one
- Minimally, store the information in a non obvious location.
That person behind you in line at the ATM may just be another shopper short of cash. Or, they could be paying
close attention to you in the hope of seeing your account balance and PIN number. If they like what they see, you
might lose your card before you know it! Make it difficult for these criminals. Shade the monitor area with your
hand when typing in your PIN and try to block others' view of the screen.
Don't just throw your old billing statements and other documents containing important information into your
garbage. There are "dumpster divers" who are willing to wade through old coffee grounds and rotten orange peels to
get their hands on your data.
Invest in paper shredder and completely destroy such documentation. If you don't get a shredder, at least tear
the materials into small pieces. When using this strategy, some believe in a two-bag approach. They will place half
of the remains of a torn document in one trash bag and the other half in a different trash container in the home.
Good garbage safety practices can reduce identity theft.
The mail service transports millions of pieces of personal information every day and is one of the most common
sites for identity theft activity. Don't be sloppy with your mail. Empty your box every day. If you are leaving
town, contact a close friend or relative to pick up your mail every day. Alternatively, contact your local post
office and ask them to hold all mail until your return. Letting mail linger unattended is an invitation for
When sending mail, put your outgoing items directly into a secure postal mail box, hand them to your postman
personally, or stop by the post office and mail them from there. That common mail drop at the office or the little
mail slot at the grocery store customer service counter may be convenient, but they are not as safe as taking a
more direct route to mailing.
Bank Account Numbers
Create and maintain a record of all of your accounts. You should record all account numbers, the business or
banks address and telephone number and any other pertinent information. This will allow you to quickly and easily
check for problems and to take action if you ever have concerns. It also allows you to keep better track of your
finances, in general.
Watch Your Bills
Many of us simply pay bills as they come, and don't really pay attention as to when they should arrive. Train
yourself to pay attention to billing cycles. A missed statement may be nothing more than a clerical error on the
part of the company, but it can also be a warning sign that your mail was intercepted or redirected. Tracking your
regular billing dates will help you see warnings before it is too late.
You should check your credit report every year, minimally. If you have experienced past victimization or have
reason to believe you are particularly vulnerable, you may want to check your report even more frequently.