Identity theft prevention

Identity thieves take your personal information and use it without your knowledge; they purchase merchandise, run up debt, and even commit crimes. The following tips can help you lower your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft and safeguard your Identity:

Protect Your Social Security Number

Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Do not give your social security number to anyone unless you are the one that contacted them, and they are entitled to it.

Don’t be the Victim of a Scam

Scam artists pretend to be banks, stores, or government agencies. They do this over the phone, in emails, and by mail. Don’t respond to a request to verify your account number or password. Legitimate companies will not request information in this manner.

Don’t Trash Your Personal Information

Shred papers with personal information on them before you throw them in the trash. Shred credit card offers and “convenience checks” that you don’t use.

Protect Your Mail

Lock your mailbox or rent a locked post office box. Deposit outgoing mail in blue post office boxes and retrieve your mail from your mailbox as soon as possible.

Be Careful Where You Click

Check out websites before shopping online and entering your credit card number or other personal information. Read the privacy policy and look for opportunities to opt out of information sharing. If there is no privacy policy, beware! Shop elsewhere. Enter personal information only on secure web pages with “https” in the address bar and a padlock symbol in the lower right corner (Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox programs). This shows that your information will be encrypted or scrambled, protecting it from hackers.

Protect Your Computer From Viruses and Spies

Protect your personal information on your home computer. Use strong passwords with at least eight characters, including letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid writing down the password. Use a firewall and virus protection software that you update regularly. Steer clear of spyware; download free software only from sites you know and trust. Do not install software without knowing what it is. Set your Internet Explorer browser security to at least “medium.” Don’t click on links in pop-up windows or in spam email.

Control Your Personal Financial Information

Federal law requires your bank and other financial institutions to get your permission before sharing your personal financial information with outside companies. You also have the right to limit the sharing of your personal financial information with affiliates of your financial institutions. Write to the companies that you want to “opt-out” of sharing your personal financial information with their affiliates. 

Always Check Your Bills and Bank Statements

Open your credit card bills and bank statement right away. Check carefully for any unauthorized charges or withdrawals and report them immediately to the fraud department of the bank or credit card company. Call the company if bills don’t arrive on time or if there is unauthorized account activity.

Ask Questions

Whenever you are asked for personal information that seems inappropriate for the transaction. Ask how the information will be used and if it will be shared. Ask how it will be protected. Explain that you’re concerned about identity theft. If you’re not satisfied with the answers, consider going somewhere else.

Check Your Credit Reports - for Free

One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to monitor your credit history. You can get one free credit report every year from each of the three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can request all three reports at once (so you can compare them). Or, be your own credit-monitoring service and spread out your request, ordering from a different bureau every four months (so you can keep track of any changes or see new information on your credit history).

Order your free annual credit reports toll-free at (877/322-8228) or online: Free Annual Credit Report.

 For more information regarding Identity Theft, please visit the Federal Trade Commission web-site at