The average identity theft crime victim may spend up to 200 hours to repair the damage caused by an identity theft crime. Getting informed about identity theft and safeguarding your personal information are the best ways to protect yourself. Here are some preventative measures you can take:
Manage Your Mailbox
- Don't leave bill payment envelopes in your mailbox.
- Know your billing cycles, and watch for any missing mail.
- Follow up if bills or new cards do not arrive on time.
- Carefully review all of your monthly accounts for unauthorized charges.
- Although it can be convenient to get general direct mail, you can opt out. To stop getting direct mail offers, call (888) 5 OPT OUT, a service sponsored by the three credit bureaus.
- The Direct Marketing Association can also help reduce mail and telephone solicitations. To join their mail preference service, mail your name, home address and signature to: Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.
Check Your Purse or Wallet
- Never leave your purse or wallet unattended - even for a minute.
- Protect your Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords - don't carry them in your wallet!
- Keep a list of all your credit cards and bank accounts along with their account numbers, expiration dates and credit limits, as well as their respective fraud department phone numbers in a safe place.
- If your state uses your Social Security Number as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number.
- When creating passwords and PINs, do not use any part of your Social Security Number, birth date, middle name, wife's name, child's name, pet's name, address, consecutive numbers or anything that a thief could easily figure out. Memorize them!
- Shield the keypad when using ATMs or when placing calling card calls.
- Only use your Social Security Number when necessary - on tax forms and employment records, or for banking, stock and property transactions.
- Don't have your Social Security Number printed on checks. Use an alternate number.
- Never give your Social Security Number, account numbers or personal credit information to anyone who calls you.
- Store personal information in a safe place and shred or tear up documents you don't need.
- Cancel your unused credit cards so that the account numbers won?t appear on your credit report.
- When you fill out a loan or credit application, be sure that the business either shreds these applications or stores them in locked files.
- When possible, watch your credit card when a merchant completes your transaction.
- Sign your credit cards immediately upon receipt.
- Keep track of credit card, debit card and ATM receipts. Never throw them in a public trash container.
- Ask businesses what their privacy policies are and how they will use your information.
- Choose to do business with companies you know are reputable, particularly online.
- When online, use a secure browser that encrypts or scrambles purchase information, and make sure your browser?s padlock or key icon is active.
- Don't open e-mail from unknown sources. Use virus detection software.
- Order a copy of your credit report every year and look for unauthorized applications, unfamiliar credit accounts, credit inquiries, and defaults and delinquencies that you didn't cause.
- Check your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement for suspicious activity. It usually comes in the mail about three months before your birthday.