Stop, Thief!

All the precautions in the world won't guarantee you'll never be a victim of identity theft, but you can minimize your risk. Take steps to monitor how your personal information gets shared, and be aware of how that information is used.
  • Don't share personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are certain you know who you're dealing with.
  • Before you share any personal information, always confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization. You can check the organization's website as many companies post scam alerts when their name is used improperly, or you can call customer service using the number listed on your account statement or in the telephone book.
  • Don't carry your SSN card in your wallet. Leave it in a secure place.
  • Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having service work done in your home.
  • Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox. If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up your mail, request a vacation hold from your post office.
  • Tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you're discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail.
  • Carry only the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards that you actually need.
  • Install passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information such as your mother's maiden name, your birth date, your phone number or the last four digits of your SSN.
  • Ask about information security procedures in your workplace or at businesses, doctor's offices or other institutions that collect personally identifying information from you. Find out who has access to your personal information and verify that it is handled securely. Ask about the disposal procedures for those records as well. Find out if your information will be shared with anyone else. If so, ask if you can keep your information confidential.
  • Give your SSN only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible. If your state uses your SSN as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number. Do the same if your health insurance company uses your SSN as your account number.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
  • Be wary of promotional scams. Identity thieves may use phony offers to get you to give them your personal information.
  • Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work as well as any copies you may keep of administrative forms that contain your sensitive personal information.
  • Cancel all unused credit accounts.
  • When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank, rather than having them sent to your home mailbox.
Source: Federal Trade Commission