How can you prevent identity theft?
- Beware of mail or telephone offers seeking solely to get your credit card number(s).
- Sign your credit cards the moment you get them.
- Match credit card receipts against your monthly bills.
- Notify your credit card companies in advance of any change of address.
- Never loan your credit cards to others.
- Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox.
- Dumpster diving is an easy way for identity thieves to access sensitive information about you and your finances. Shred financial information before discarding it (such as preapproved credit card applications, credit card receipts and bills).
- Carry few credit cards. Cancel those you don't use and maintain a list of the ones you do.
- Order your credit report from the three principal credit bureaus once a year. Check it for fraudulent activity and other discrepancies.
- Never leave receipts behind (check bank machines, gas pumps, etc.).
- Memorize you social security number and all your passwords. Don't write them down.
- Closely monitor credit card expiration dates. Check with the issuer if replacement cards aren't received in a timely manner.
- Choose passwords wisely by not using obvious information such as your birthday, anniversary, mother's maiden name or Social Security Number. Also, it's safer to never use a common series of consecutive numbers such as "1234" or "5678."
- Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse unless it's absolutely necessary.
- If you shop online, don't check the "remember my password" box or especially the "remember my account information" box. It's better to keep that information off your computer.
- After receiving cash from an ATM, don't throw away the receipt at the ATM location. Take it with you and shred it if you no longer need it.
- Banking online can eliminate paper checks and statements, which can lower the risk of identity theft. Also, if you order new checks, arrange to pick them up at the financial institution, or have them delivered to a PO box, rather than risk having them stolen from your home mailbox.
What should you do when your identity has been stolen?
- Inform all creditors — by phone and in writing.
- Inform your local post office.
- Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission, 800-FTC-HELP.
- Alert your banks. Have your accounts flagged. Request a change of PIN and a new password.
- Contact Social Security's Fraud Hotline, 800-269-0271.
- Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. Request a new license if one has been issued in your name.
- Call these three credit bureaus:
- Equifax Credit Bureau
- Experian Information Solutions
- TransUnion Credit Bureau
- Equifax Credit Bureau
This information is excerpted from the Identity Theft pamphlet available from the US Postal Service.