Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Action Log
Chapter 2: Preventing Identity Theft

There are many ways to protect your private information from fraud. Though some tasks take a bit of effort, be aware that cleaning up the mess identity thieves leave behind is far more difficult and time-consuming.

Credit Reports

  • Periodically check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can obtain a copy of each report free once a year from the Annual Credit Report Request Service (See Chapter 5 for more information.)

  • Dispute inaccurate information immediately

Personal Identity Information

  • Keep all identification and financial documents in a safe and private place

  • Provide personal information only when:
    1. You know how will be used
    2. You are certain it won’t be shared
    3. You initiated contact and know who you’re dealing with

  • Make all passwords hard to guess by using a complex combination of numbers and upper and lower case letters

  • Request a vacation hold if you can’t pick up your mail

  • Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office

  • Remove mail from your mailbox promptly

  • Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work

  • Be aware of your workplace’s security procedures

  • Memorize your Social Security number rather than carrying your Social Security Card

  • Do not have your Social Security or driver license number printed on your checks

  • Review your Social Security annual statement for accuracy

  • Provide your Social Security number only when necessary and to those you absolutely trust

  • Before revealing your Social Security number, ask:
    1. Why your number is needed
    2. How your number will be used
    3. What happens if you refuse

Credit Card and ATM/Debit Cards

  • Carry only those cards you really need

  • Shred all statements and pre-approved credit card offers with a crosscut shredder

  • Opt out of receiving pre-approved credit offers (See Chapter 5 for more information.)

  • Photocopy both sides of your credit cards so you have all the account numbers, expiration dates and phone numbers, and keep the copies in a safe place

  • Cancel unused credit card accounts

  • Be aware of people behind you at the ATM, or anywhere else you swipe your card

  • If you give your credit or debit card to someone for a transaction, watch them swipe it and inspect the receipt for accuracy

  • Know your billing cycles and contact creditors if bills don’t arrive on time

  • Examine the charges on your credit card statements every month

Checking Accounts

  • Know where your checkbook is at all times

  • Print firmly and use indelible ink when writing checks

  • Check your account statement for fraudulent activity

  • Do not give out your checking account number unless you know the company requesting the information and understand why the information is necessary


  • Update virus protection software periodically, and after every new virus alert is announced

  • Do not download files or open hyperlinks sent from people you don’t know

  • Use a firewall program to prevent your computer from being accessible to hackers

  • Use a secure browser to guard the security of your online transactions

  • Enter personal and financial information only when there is a “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar and look for the URL to read “https” versus “http”

  • If you must store personal and financial information on your laptop:
    1. Use a strong password – one that is a hard-to-guess combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers
    2. Don’t use an automatic log-in feature
    3. Always log off when you’re finished

  • Before disposing of a computer, delete personal information using a “wipe” utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive

Credit Monitoring & Protection

If you are especially concerned about the possibility of identity theft, you may consider paying for added protection or a monitoring service – but do so only after carefully reading the fine print and weighing the cost against the benefits. Some of these businesses are scams themselves. Research the company’s history and check the Better Business Bureau’s complaint log before signing an agreement.

Credit Monitoring
Each of the three major credit bureaus offers a fee-based credit monitoring service. They typically provide regular credit report updates about fraudulent activity, new inquiries, new accounts, late payments, and sudden changes in your credit card balances. These plans often include a specific number of credit reports being mailed to you automatically or at your request, and access to specialized customer service.

Credit Protection
Credit protection is offered by private companies and some financial institutions, and the price and service varies considerably. Most will reimburse victims of identity theft for out-of-pocket expenses (up to a certain dollar amount) and help you through the process of contacting creditors, writing affidavits, and filing reports.

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