Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

There’s no ironclad protection that guarantees that you’ll never fall victim to some form of identity theft. But there are steps you can take to shield your privacy, many of which are rather simple:

  • Destroy private records and statements. Tear - or, if you prefer, shred - credit card statements, solicitations and other documents that contain private financial information.
  • Empty your mailbox quickly so criminals don’t have a chance to snatch credit cards pitches. Consider locking your mailbox.
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card with you, or any other card that may have your number. Don’t put your number on your checks. Leave your driver’s license number off your checks as well.
  • Never leave ATM or gas stations receipts behind.
  • Worried about credit card skimming? Pay with cash as often as possible.
  • When making an online purchase, look in the lower right hand corner of your browser window. If you see the icon of a lock, that means you’re dealing with a secure site. If you don’t see one, you’ll be safer finding another merchant. Also, check out website privacy policies. Shy away from sites that don’t specifically say that they won’t pass out your name and information around to others.
  • Stick to well-known retailers or sites that others have used to their satisfaction. Use only one credit card for online purchases. That way, if something amiss happens, it’ll be easier to spot on your bill.
  • Be more defensive with personal information. Ask salespeople and others if information such as a Social Security number or driver’s license is absolutely necessary. Ask anyone who does require your Social Security number - for instance, your insurance company - what their privacy policy is and whether you can arrange for the organization not to share that information with anyone else.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year to look for suspicious activity. If you spot something, alert your card company or the creditor immediately.
  • Investigate credit bureau protections services. For instance, Equifax offers Credit Watch, which alerts you any time a change takes place with your credit report.