Identity Theft


Preventing Identity Theft

Many Websites offer tips to prevent identity theft. Here are some key preventative measures.

When you are... Remember to...
At the ATM Don’t forget to get your card after using the ATM, and be sure to take the receipt the machine spits out. Thieves have been known to gain valuable information from such slips.
At the Cash Register Keep an eye on your credit card and get it back as soon as possible. If you’re paying by check, try not to let anyone look over your shoulder. Thieves can memorize your name and address written on your checks.
At a Restaurant/Bar Be sure to take your copy of the bill, and try to get your card back as quickly as possible. Believe it or not, there have been cases where waiters have memorized your card’s info.
Mailing your Bills Mail your bills from the post office or a post office mailbox instead of your personal mailbox. Thieves have been known to steal checks made out to someone else, alter them and make them out to themselves. Better yet, pay your bills online, and use the Web to check your balances.
Check your Mail Check your mail regularly so sensitive documents aren’t left for a thief to steal. Avoid having sensitive documents (like checks) mailed to your home mailbox. Pick them up from the bank instead.
Managing your Records/Bills Invest in a crosscut paper shredder (it’s really worth the $50). Shred all documents that you no longer need that contain personal data: credit card numbers, Social Security #’s, bank account info, and other sensitive stuff. There are dumpster divers out there who are looking through your trash for personal data.
Using your Social Security Number Be careful about giving out your Social Security number. Too many institutions use this number freely; ask if you can substitute a password instead when someone asks for your Social Security number. Also, don’t carry your SS card around with you, especially not in your wallet with your driver’s license. Find a secure place for it.
Opening a New Account Ask the institution if, instead of using your mother’s maiden name or the last 4 digits of your SSN to get access to your account, you can use a password.
Using a Computer Invest in some anti-virus software like McAfee or Norton’s in order to protect against harmful viruses that will steal your data. You should update this software regularly with patches. Ideally, your virus protection software should be set-up to update once a week.

One More Tip

Perhaps the most important tip of all is to opt out of pre-approved credit card offers. Thieves can take these from your mailbox, apply for the card, and max it out in your name. You can opt out of receiving pre-approved credit card offers by contacting the credit bureaus at the addresses below:

Trans Union
Name Removal Opt-Out Request
P.O. Box 97328
Jackson, MS 39288
Equifax Options
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123

Experian Marketing
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013

Now let's move on to methods that you can use to monitor if you have become a victim of identity theft.

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