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Return to Identity Theft

Identity theft can create havoc on your life. Instead of leaving yourself vulnerable, learn what you can do to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft. Use the tips below to prevent identity theft across various aspects of your life.


Pay Attention to Your Garbage.Thieves often dig through your garbage, looking for useful information. Keep your garbage container in a secure place and only bring it out when garbage pickup is scheduled.

Buy a Paper Shredder. Shred any pre-approved credit card applications, receipts and any other documents containing personal information.

Invest in a Locked Mailbox. Use a mailbox with a lock and take out received mail as soon as possible to prevent thieves from stealing your mail.

Safeguard Your Information. Store your personal files and other documents containing personal information in a safe or locked filing cabinet.

Store Your Cards. Store cards that you don’t use frequently in a safe or locked cabinet. This includes your social security card and credit cards you don’t use as often, such as those from specific department stores.


Sign Out. Make sure you sign out of all programs and applications when accessing information on a public computer or any other computer away from your home.

Clean Out Your Wallet or Purse. Go through your wallet or purse to make sure you aren’t storing any unnecessary information, such as bills or receipts. Also, never store your social security card in your wallet or purse.

Public Bathrooms. Women should never hang their purse on a stall door when using a public restroom. This creates an easy opportunity for thieves to quickly snatch the purse and run off.

Consolidate your Credit Cards. If you have several credit cards, designate one as your primary card. Keep only your primary credit card in your wallet or purse and leave the others safely stored at home until they are needed.

Keep Your Receipts. Never throw away a debit or credit card receipt while in public; keep the receipt and wait until you get home to properly dispose of it.

Never Leave your Info Alone. When in public, never leave documents containing personal information unattended, even if you are somewhere you feel comfortable at, like school or work.


Memorize. The best way to keep your passwords safe is to memorize them. If you can’t memorize them, save them to a disk and store in a safe place instead of storing on your computer or writing them down.

Avoid the Common. Avoid using common passwords, such as your mother’s maiden name; sequential or consecutive numbers; the last four (4) of your social security number; or commonly used words from the dictionary.

Mix It Up. The best passwords are those that use a combination of numbers, uppercase letters and lowercase letters.

Keep It a Secret. Never give out your password to anyone, unless you are willing to take responsibility for however they may use it.

Avoid Duplicates. Instead of using one password for everything, come up with different passwords for different purposes. Each password should only serve one purpose at a time.

Change Often. One of the best ways to prevent thieves from stealing your password is to keep them guessing; you can do this by rotating your passwords around. The more often your password changes, the harder it is to figure out.

Use Encryptions. Use an encrypted password whenever possible. An encryption is the process of turning your password into an unreadable text when entered, which can only be read by the receiver. This can deter thieves who steal passwords by watching you enter it from a distance or tap into your system and copy it without you knowing.


Hotel or Motel Rooms. Never keep personal information in the room unless you’re present. Use the safe in the room or front desk to store any documents containing personal information whenever you leave the room.

Mail. Have your mail held at your local post office until you get back. Advise the post office to only release the held mail to you and check for proper identification.

Newspapers. Have your newspaper delivery put on hold while you are out of town. A pile of newspapers outside your home can be an indication that you are not home, which thieves may take as in invitation to break into your home and steal important personal information.

Watch Out for Pickpockets. Pickpockets often target busy tourist spots filled with crowds of people. Pickpockets prey on more than just money; they also use identifiable information kept in your wallet or purse to steal your identity. Be extra cautious of your surroundings while on vacation.

Buyers Beware. When buying things while on vacation, be cautious of the vendors you are buying from. If you are making a purchase from a small local business or street vendor, use cash instead of a card payment. To be safe, try sticking to more prominent and established businesses.

Financial Information

Sign Your Cards. Be sure to sign all your credit cards as soon as you receive them. Unsigned credit cards may not be protected against fraudulent charges if you card is lost or stolen.

Sign Your Receipts. Be sure to sign all your credit card receipts. By signing all your receipts, it will make it easier to figure out fraudulent charges from legitimate ones in the event that your card is lost or stolen.

Stick to a Routine. Keep record of the day within the month that you receive your bank and credit card statements. If your statement is late, notify the bank or credit card company immediately.

Switch to Electronic Statements. By having your bank and credit card statements emailed to you, you can prevent thieves from going through your mail and eliminate the hassle of having to properly dispose of the documents.

Never Lend Out Your Card. Never lend out your debit or credit card to anyone unless you are willing to take responsibility for anything they do with your card.

Never Give Out Your PIN. Never give out your PIN code to anyone unless they have your permission to use your card. For in-person purchases, your PIN code should be entered by you only.

Change of Information. If you plan on changing your address or phone number, notify your bank and/or credit card provider in advance. This prevents the chance of someone else gaining access to your information.

Use Online Bill Pay. Instead of paying your bills by mail, use online bill pay to prevent thieves from stealing your outgoing mail.

Add Passwords. Add passwords to all your financial accounts, including bank and credit cards accounts, to prevent thieves from gaining access to the account.

Be Aware of Expiration Dates. If you have a debit or credit card that is expiring soon, notify your card provider if you haven’t received a replacement card before the expiration date comes up.

Lost or Stolen Cards. If your debit or credit card is lost or stolen, immediately report it to your card provider to prevent anyone else from using it.

Add Your Photo to Cards. Many debit and credit card providers may allow you to add your photo to your card for added security against fraudulent purchases.

Pick Up Your Checkbooks. If you need to reorder checkbooks, pick them up from the bank instead of having them sent to your home.


Prevent Viruses. Install an anti-virus program to your computer to protect yourself from identity thieves trying to get information from you.

Install a Firewall. Install a firewall to your computer to prevent any identity thieves from gaining access to your computer.

Keep Everything Updated. Make sure to regularly update any anti-virus programs, firewall or operating systems installed on your computer.

Email Links. Be suspicious of emails from known companies that link to a site requiring you to enter account information or other personal information. If you do follow a link asking for your account information, make sure the domain name matches the name of the company.

Downloads. Never download a program or file from an unknown source; verify the source of all downloads. Unverified downloads may contain viruses designed to steal information from your computer.

Published Information. Don’t publish personal information on the internet that is not available to the public. More specifically, this includes public websites such as blogs, chatrooms, and social networking sites.

Use Prepaid Cards. Use prepaid cards for internet purchases. Since prepaid cards only use money that is added to the card, you can prevent thieves from creating debt for you by adding only the purchase amount each time you use the card.

Use Secure Websites. The following three factors indicate a website is secure. Look for these factors when sending personal information: the web address has an “s” after “http” (ex. https), the “s” indicates it’s a safe page; a padlock appears at the bottom of the page; an unbroken key appears at the bottom of a page.


Credit Reports. At least once a year, check your credit report for any problems, such as debt that wasn’t incurred by you, opened accounts that you did not authorize, or any other problems that could have resulted from a stolen identity.

Resume. Leave out the year and school you graduated from on your resume. Identity thieves posing as employers can your school and graduating year, along with your name, to gather additional information about you from alumni lists.

Personal Checks. Eliminate any unnecessary information from you personal checks, such as your social security number, phone number and address. This information can be used against you if your checkbook becomes lost or stolen.

Verify Sources. Before you give out any personal information, verify the legitimacy of the source first. This includes information sent through the phone, internet, mail or in-person.

Job Seeking. Never provide your social security number during a phone interview or on an online job application unless you have met the potential employer first. Identity thieves often post fake job listings in an attempt to gather useful personal information about you.

Sending Mail. Deposit outgoing mail at your local post office instead of using an unsecured mailbox or leaving it in your mailbox for the mailperson to pick up.