Preventing ID Theft

tips on how to prevent ID theft

ID theft is one of the fastest growing crimes. It involves a person who takes your identity and applies for credit and other items in your name.

They fraudulently obtain your credit information and money accounts by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for — and a legal right to — the information. And it may take 30-60 days before you note something wrong, giving them ample time to open accounts in your name with your stolen information.

Below are six (4) quick summary credit report tips

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How You Can Become a Victim

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  • They steal wallets and purses containing your identification and credit and bank cards
  • They steal your mail, including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information
  • They complete a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location
  • They rummage through your trash, or the trash of businesses, for personal data in a practice known as "dumpster diving"
  • They fraudulently obtain your credit report by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for — and a legal right to — the information
  • They get your business or personnel records at work
  • They find personal information in your home
  • They use personal information you share on the Internet
  • They buy your personal information from "inside" sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services or credit

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How ID Thieves Use Your Information

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  • They call your credit card issuer and, pretending to be you, ask to change the mailing address on your credit card account. The impostor then runs up charges on your account.

    Because your bills are being sent to the new address, it may take some time before you realize there's a problem.
  • They open a new credit card account, using your name, date of birth and SSN. When they use the credit card and don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.
  • They establish phone or wireless service in your name.
  • They open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
  • They file for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
  • They counterfeit checks or debit cards, and drain your bank account.
  • They buy cars by taking out auto loans in your name.

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Preventing Identity Theft

tips and advice on how best to prevent ID theft

  • Check your Credit Report Regularly

    The whole premise behind ID theft is obtaining credit under your name and access to your bank accounts. Your credit report contains everything about you: your SSN, bank accounts, credit accounts, bill payment accounts, etc.

    By checking your credit report regularly, you can verify that the information on your report is correct and detect mistakes or potential fraud as soon as possible.
  • Don't Give Out Your Personal Information

    This is especially true for phone calls that come into your home or through your email account. Identity thieves may pose as bank representatives, government agencies, law enforcement, and brand-name service providers. They will initiate a call into your home, represent themselves as a party with whom you may know and trust, and then try to get you to reveal your personal information.

    General rule:
    never reveal anything about yourself unless you initiate the contact or if you request a phone number that you may call back to authenticate the representation being made.
  • Use Reputable and Secured Web Sites

    The internet has become one most popular fronts for scamming individuals for ID information. What appears to be a professional, secured web site is in reality a front used to collect personal information for identity theft purposes.

    Always use a secure browser – software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet – to guard the security of your online transactions. You should use 128-bit encryption for maximum security.

    When making a transaction – such as entering your personal information – make sure the web site that you are using is on a secured server. A secured server will start with the letters: https:// Also look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar to be sure your information is secure during transmission.
  • Protect Your PC

    Update your virus protection software regularly. Computer viruses can introduce computer code that will scan for and send out personal information. Do not open emails with attachments or download files from individuals you do not know. Many of these files contain virus-related code.

    Use firewall programs if your PC is connected to high-speed Internet connections. Your computer is connected 24-hours a day to the internet; it can invite authorized guests to hack into your system.

    Be careful what you store on personal laptops and mobile devices. They can be stolen. If you have your personal banking and other information on your laptop or device, you run the risk having your identity stolen along with your laptop.
  • Watch Your Mail

    Collect your mail as soon as it is delivered. If you are going away on vacation, make sure you request a mail hold by the US Postal Service. A popular scheme by ID thieves is to collect pre-approved credit card offers from your mail box and initiate the credit offering for themselves under your identity.
  • Shred Important Documents

    Identity thieves will rummage through garbage cans and trash looking for documents with SSN, credit card numbers, driver's license numbers, date of birth, etc. Shred your documents before placing them in the garbage. This includes utility bills, government notices, and any mail items or documents that contain personal information.
  • Guard Your Personal Information

    Do not print your social security number, phone number, date of birth, or credit card number on checks, envelopes, stationary, or any other documents that float in the public. Do not carry your social security card with you. Only carry those items you actually use such as identification, credit, and debit cards.

    If a merchant, employer, or creditor asks for personal information, find out why they need the information, what they intend to use the information, and what privacy guarantees that they can offer.
  • Pay Attention to Your Billing Cycle

    If a regular bill does not show up in its regular cycle, call your creditors immediately. A missing bill could be a used for identity theft purposes.
  • Be Careful Against Promotional Scams

    If is sounds to good to be true, it generally is. Email scams such as quick money or ease of life are general indications of promotional scams.

    Be careful with email notices from legitimate companies. Many email scams pose as, information from your bank for example, asking you to update information. You link to a page that looks like your bank. Many of these are fraudulent web site trying to collect your account information. So check with your bank or other company to see if the notice was sent actually sent doing anything with the email.

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What To Do If You Become A Victim

Steps to take in the event you become a victim of ID theft:

  • Don't Give Out Your Personal Information

    Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.

    credit reporting features
    about major credit bureaus
  • Contact Your Creditors

    For any accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened, contact the security departments of the appropriate creditors or financial institutions. Close these accounts. Put passwords (not your mother’s maiden name or something that can be lifted) on any new accounts you open.
  • File a Report with Your Local Authorities

    File a report with your local police or the police where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the report in case the bank, credit card company, or others need proof of the crime later on.

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