Identity Theft: How to Safeguard Your Personal Information

May 15, 2018 | Security and Fraud

Understanding Identity Theft

When someone uses your personal information (name, address, Social Security number, bank account numbers or medical insurance account numbers) without your permission they are committing identity theft. This serious crime is happening more and more every day. The ever-present high profile data thefts also continue to keep this crime in the spotlight. Learn how to protect your personal information here.

How to Prevent Identity Theft

We live in a digital world where you can pay for almost anything online and have it delivered directly to your front door. While this is a major convenience, it also makes you susceptible to identity theft. Here are a few ways you can protect your personal information.

  • Secure your Social Security number – Don’t carry your Social Security card with you (in your purse or wallet) and only give out the number if it is absolutely necessary.
  • Regularly check you banking accounts – Keeping tabs on your checking, savings and credit card accounts on a regular basis will help you catch and report fraudulent use quicker.
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited requests – If you receive an email, phone call or letter in the mail from someone you don’t know asking for personal information, do not share any information.
  • Check your mail –  While most identity theft happens online, don’t neglect your snail mail. Be sure to remove it from the mailbox daily.
  • Shred your documents – If you no longer need a receipt, statement, expired credit card, etc., shred them before throwing them in the trash.
  • Enable security features – Many of us have personal information saved on our phones and computers. Enable security features to prevent others from accessing them.
  • Review your credit report – You are allowed to check your credit report for free once every 12 months from each of the three main credit reporting companies. Take advantage of this service to see if your credit score has unexpectedly fluctuated.

Reporting Identity Theft

If your identity has been stolen, report it to the Federal Trade Commission either by calling 1-877-438-4338 or going online to identitytheft.gov. By reporting online, you will also receive an identity theft report and recovery plan. If you create an account, you can access the report and plan, track your progress and receive prefilled form letters you can send to your creditors.