By reviewing your financial documents regularly and keeping your personal information close, you can avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
Learning how to protect your identity begins with knowing what information a thief looks for and how they can use it. Thieves will use your name, date of birth, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name or other key identity markers to impersonate you and access your bank accounts, obtain loans, make purchases or rent an apartment in your name.
Protect yourself from identity theft
Even though identity theft is a felony, police cannot undo all of the damage that’s been done to you. That’s why it’s important to be vigilant. In the case of identity theft, the best defense is awareness and prevention. Follow these simple habits to help protect yourself.
- Review all statements and your credit report regularly: These are usually the first places you’ll notice signs of identity theft. Make sure all information is accurate — transactions, purchases, deposits and withdrawals. If you see any irregularity, notify the respective company or organization.
- Call your credit card company if a statement is late: You should receive a statement of account activity every month. If it’s late, it could be a sign that someone has stolen your credit card and changed the billing address so you wouldn’t notice additional charges. The best way to protect this information is to cancel your paper statements and sign up for online statements.
- Don’t give out personal information: Unless you initiate the contact or know the caller, you should never freely give out information such as your full name, address, date of birth or Social Security number.
- Destroy documents that contain personal information: Tear or shred all documents including credit card receipts, insurance forms, physician and bank statements and credit card offers.
- Carry only as many credit cards as you need: The fewer credit (or debit, for that matter) cards that you carry with you, the better. That way, if you're purse or wallet are taken, fewer cards will be compromised. And don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
- Deposit outgoing mail directly into post office boxes: It may not be the most convenient, but it’s safer than putting it in your own mailbox. Thieves could easily access your mailbox and obtain personal information from the contents.
- Review your credit report once a year to verify accuracy: You’re entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. You can request your free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.
What to do if you think you may be the victim of identity theft
Take action now. By flagging yourself as a potential identity theft victim immediately, you’ll minimize the damage done as well as help others protect their identity.
- Notify local law enforcement to file a report.
- Call the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline at 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338).
- Contact the three main credit bureaus and ask to have a fraud alert placed on your credit file.
- 1. Equifax: 800-525-6285 or equifax.com
- 2. Experian: 888-397-3742 or experian.com
- 3. TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or transunion.com
- If you’re a U.S. Bank customer, call the U.S. Bank Fraud Liaison Center immediately at 877-595-6256.
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