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Identity Theft Prevention Tips

There are so many ways identity thieves can breach your security. Taking measures as outlined below, and being cognizant about habits, will go a long way in helping prevent identity theft. If you become a victim of identity theft, report it at once.

In 2007, 32% (about 258,000) of the complaints to the FTC were about identity theft.

Some sobering statistics on identity theft for 2006:

Sources of identity theft (note that 63% of identity theft was from sources the consumer had control over).


  1. Only carry cards and IDs you need. Leave the rest at home.
  2. Do not carry anything that has your Social Security number on it.
  3. Look for strange charges on your bank or credit card statement.
  4. Watch out for missing bills. Know when each bill is supposed to arrive in the mail or online. If it is missing this may be the sign that someone switched addresses or swiped it from your mailbox.
  5. Watch out for people looking over your shoulder.

Credit Cards

  1. Check your receipts. It is much easier to resolve problems immediately than later.
  2. While standing in line do not leave it out in plain site. Someone can memorize or use a cell phone to take a picture of it.
  3. Ask for your credit card back. It is easy to forget when you are in a rush.
  4. Only bring required credit cards when shopping
  5. Shred "convenience checks" your credit card company sends out.
  6. Review your financial statements thoroughly.
  7. Review credit card activity frequently. Check online activity once a week. ID thieves often check to see if a credit card works by making a small purchase.
  8. Review your credit report every three months.
  9. Close unused credit card accounts.
  10. Do not cosign with a friend or family member on a credit/debit card
  11. Do not give anyone your credit/debit cards or PIN numbers.
  12. Never leave credit card receipts or carbons behind. Insist on taking the carbons, too
  13. Never let your credit card out of your site (at restaurants, etc). Many cardholders have had their information stolen in the following manner:  An employee runs the credit card through a swiper, (a machine about the size of a credit card that collects and stores one's credit card information) in addition to the normal credit card processor. Over the night a few hundred credit cards are collected and the information is sold.
  14. Stop getting preapproved credit card applications either call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5OPT-OUT) or online at OptOutPrescreen (you only have to enter your name and address - social security number and birth date are optional).
  15. Maintain a list of all credit card accounts and emergency phone numbers.
  16. Credit scores between credit bureaus should be within 50 points of each other.
  17. Consider using a credit monitoring service to alert you when someone applies for credit in your name..
  18. Consider lowering your credit card limit.
  19. Ask your credit card company to let you know if there is suspected fraud. Often this service is free.
  20. Some credit card companies offer one use only numbers; perfect for online shopping.

Cutting up a Credit Card

Tips on cutting up a credit card. Yes, there are a lot of criminals who go through garbage bins.

  1. Use scissors to cut through the four numbers several times.
  2. Destroy the magnetic strip and RFID if it is available. Cut the RFID chip in half. Run a strong magnet along the magnetic strip to scramble it the cut it up.
  3. Put pieces in separate trash cans that get emptied in different garbage cans.
  4. Recycling is no safer than garbage cans.

Social Security Numbers

  1. Do not put your social security number on your driver's license. The DMV will ask if you want your social security number on your driver's license when you apply or renew.  It should be optional.  Request that it not be displayed.
  2. Do not carry anything in your wallet/purse with your social security number
  3. Never allow someone to write your social security number on a check.
  4. Use alternate IDs rather than social security numbers whenever possible

Around the House

  1. Use locking file cabinets for important papers
  2. Invest in and use a good paper shredder.
  3. Use alternate IDs rather than social security numbers whenever possible
  4. Going on vacation? Put a hold on your mail at the post office.
  5. Never give out personal information over the phone unless you initiate the call
  6. Curtail mail theft by replacing paper bills with paperless (online) bills

Papers to Shred

Papers with personal and business information should be shredded.


  1. Watch out for fake mortgage brokers who gather your personal information
  2. Watch out for emails wanting you to confirm account information
  3. Watch out for emails posing as internet service providers asking for personal information


  1. Wireless hotspots are generally unsecure. (airports, coffee shops, hotels, ...). It is simple to connect to most hotspots (public wireless access points) such as coffee shops, rest stops, airports, and hotels, but this convenience also has drawbacks.  Hotspots are generally unsecure (because no password or encryption is used) which means everything you send/receive from the internet can be easily read by hackers nearby.