101: How to Prevent Identity Theft
by Jennifer Zeberkiewicz / February 4, 2016
No one can totally eliminate the risk of identity theft, but there are things you can do to reduce risk. Think of your Social Security Number (SSN), financial account numbers, and passwords as the Holy Grail—sacred and powerful. Protect them carefully.
Protect your Social Security Number
- Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet unless you'll need it that day.
- Don't write your SSN on checks.
- If your state or insurance company uses your SSN as your driver's license or identification number, ask to substitute another number.
Protect your personal information
- Deposit outgoing mail containing personal information in post office collection boxes rather than in unsecured mailboxes.
- Avoid using public computers to access financial accounts.
- Shred any paperwork containing nonpublic information--such as financial account numbers, SSN, driver's license information, receipts, tax forms, vehicle registration, and insurance forms.
Protect your passwords
- When online, select intricate passwords containing letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Never write passwords down. Keep track of them with reputable online password management programs.
Protect your financial accounts
- Place passwords on your credit card, bank, and phone accounts.
- If you access financial accounts or shop online, make sure websites are secure. Secure sites have an "s" after the http—https://.
- If you receive an e-mail that claims to be from your financial institution and contains a link to the website, don't click on the link. Instead, navigate to the website by manually typing in the address.
- Check your credit report regularly. You can obtain a free credit report once a year from each of the major credit bureaus by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
- Monitor your transactions and reconcile your financial accounts regularly.
- Keep an inventory of what's in your wallet and personal organizer, including account numbers. Make copies of everything and store copies in a safe place.
- Keep your vehicle registration and auto insurance forms locked in your glove box.
Protect your cellphone
- Make sure your cellphone or smartphone is equipped with security functions to protect sensitive information.
- Don't store financial information on your phone.
When social networking...
- When using social networking sites like Facebook, limit your contact information and never talk about your finances.