How to Protect Yourself
Using an identity theft protection service is the best way to protect your personal information from being misused, but there are many industry best practices you can put in place on your own for free–if you're willing to put in the time and effort.
For added convenience and peace of mind, you can choose a third-party service to do the work for you. In most cases, a service provides more advanced identity theft protection than you can achieve on your own. For more information, read the complete description of the techniques you can start doing today.
- Watch your credit score:
If a thief got a hold of your personal information, how would you know? One way is to keep a close eye on your credit report and watch for changes in your score.
- Don't share your personal information:
Before providing any personal information, especially at doctors' offices and other places of business, ask why the information is needed. Accidental disclosures on the business end can put you at risk for identity theft.
- Lock up your government IDs:
Lost or stolen identification are increasingly difficult to replace. When not in use, store your government-issued identification (Social Security Card, Passport) in a safe place, preferably not on your person.
- Shred and destroy your documents:
Dumpster diving is a proven method for thieves to gain access to your personal information by stealing discarded information. Shred it and forget it.
- Guard your mail:
Protect your mailbox from thieves by replacing unlocked versions with a secure model. This simple task helps to reduce the chances of mail theft. As an added precaution, place your mail on hold while you travel.
- Shop smart:
Online shopping provides many conveniences, but be sure to look for a security seal and https in the URL when it comes time to enter any personal information. This quick check can help stop you from being phished and disclosing your identity on a counterfeit website.
- Strengthen your passwords:
Changing your passwords often and using numbers, symbols, and uppercase letters can help protect you and your accounts from being hacked.
- Stay alert (Skimming, Shoulder Surfers, Strange ATMs, Phishing, SMSishing, Vishing):
High-tech thieves are busy coming up with inventive ways to get at your personal information, including skimming your credit card during check out, shoulder surfing to snap a picture of your account, and phishing for your identity via email, websites, texting, or phone calls.
- Protect your children's information:
These days, you are not the only person in your family at risk. More and more youth identities are being stolen so that thieves can commit employment or benefit-related fraud and get away with it for years before you even realize it.
† Federal Trade Commission. “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book For
January – December 2011.” February 2012.
† Javelin Strategy & Research. "2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming the New Fraud Frontier." February 2012.