How to Protect Yourself Now

There’s a lot of advice about how to deal with identity theft around these days - some helpful, some unrealistic, and some a little ridiculous. We’ve done the research for you and present the following easy-to-do, indispensable steps. These items should be considered MUST-DOs if you’re serious about minimizing the effect identity theft can have on your life.

  1. Don’t leave printed personal and/or financial information lying around at home.

  2. This is a no-brainer, right? Yet more often than not, identity thieves are friends or relatives of the victim who get their personal information offline – not electronically. Keep checkbooks, social security information, billing information, and anything else a thief could use to steal your identity out of sight and secure.

  3. Minimize the risks posed by mail theft.

  4. Shred bank and credit statements and credit card offers by hand before throwing them away. Even better, get a crosscut shredder. Don’t mail checks from your home mailbox. Instead, drop them off at a U.S. Mailbox or the U.S. Post Office. Also, have new checks delivered to your bank, not your home.

  5. Get and review your bank statements electronically.

  6. View your personal finance statements electronically at least twice a month. By doing this, you will spot a fraud much sooner if it happens. Catching a fraud early minimizes the damage thieves can do and usually results in less time and money spent resolving problems.

  7. Subscribe to a service that will provide you with a copy of one of your credit reports and FICO® scores on a regular basis.

  8. By monitoring your report and your FICO score for any changes you can’t account for, you’ll know if someone has applied for credit in your name.

  9. Check and review your FICO scores and credit reports at least once a year.

  10. When you look at your reports, make sure you recognize all the account information listed. If you see anything you can’t account for, get to the bottom of it as soon as you can. As with electronic statements, checking your FICO scores and credit reports is one of the most sure-fire ways to spot a fraud quickly and minimize any damage done.

  11. Avoid giving out your Social Security number whenever possible.

  12. Your SSN is the key to your credit reports and banking accounts and is the prime target of criminals. Anyone who already has your social security number (along with other information) already poses a risk: your doctor’s office, accountants, lawyers, loan officer, health insurance, schools, courts, etc. Shady employees at any of these places could steal your identity, so be very choosy about to whom you entrust it in the future. Never put your social security number on your checks or your credit receipts. If a business requests your SSN, ask to give them an alternate number (such as a driver’s license)