Taking Steps to Avoid and Address Identity Theft
Protect your finances from issues with credit fraud and deal with fraud efficiently if it happens.
Using credit without creating debt problems is challenging enough on its own. The last thing you need is someone stealing your identity and using credit in your name. From little charges they try to hide in your statements to entirely new accounts opened in your name, there are a wide range of ways the savvy thieves may try to steal and use your identity. Protecting yourself is essential. It’s equally important to know what to do if fraud happens to you.
If you’re facing credit challenges following identity theft, we can help. Contact Consolidated Credit today at to speak with a certified credit counselor and if you’re struggling with debt problems you created all on your own, we can help with those, too. Click here to request a free Debt & Budget Analysis.
Protecting your identity online
Increasingly, ID theft is occurring online as more people shop, bank and make important financial deals on the web. You have to take steps to keep your account information safe.
- Only enter account or credit card information on a secure server. You can tell a connection is secure by looking at the web address bar. A secure server link will start with “https:” and the address bar should be green.
- Do not send account information or personal information like your Social Security number via email. No reputable company will ask for information like this.
- Only open email from people you know and trust. Even if the email is from someone you know but the subject line seems weird or off in some way, don’t open it!
- Only shop reputable websites from companies you know.
- Never enter sensitive information through social networks.
- Set the security settings on your social networks so strangers can’t view any information about you.
- Choose good passwords for your accounts; change your passwords often and never share them with anyone.
- Close any accounts that you’re not using and make sure your information is removed from that company’s databases.
- Teach your kids to surf safely and follow the same rules you do.
- Before you get rid of an old computer or hard drive, make sure to clear or wipe the system so all of your information is deleted.
Protecting your identity while you’re out
While criminals are finding plenty of new ways to steal your information online, the old ways of stealing your identity can still be a problem.
- Keep your wallet in a pocket where it can’t be stolen without notice. Keep your purse closed so your wallet can’t be lifted easily.
- Only carry cards that you actually use with you; don’t carry your Social Security card around with you – lock it up at home.
- If any card in your wallet (like your medical insurance card) has your Social Security number included, ask the company if that line can be removed. If not, only carry that card when you need it.
- Don’t let a store clerk take your credit card where you can’t see it to run a charge.
- Don’t write your Social Security number or full driver’s license number on a check.
- Don’t use ATMs from financial institutions you don’t recognize.
- Always be aware of your surroundings when you put in your pin at an ATM or debit card reader.
- Don’t bank or shop online from a free wireless connection or on a localized hotspot.
Protecting your identity at home
Even around your own home, there are steps you can take to keep your information safe and to ensure your identity hasn’t been stolen.
- Shred financial documents and statements that you want to throw away.
- Cut up old credit and debit cards before you toss them.
- If possible, get a locked mailbox so someone can’t come along to take statements out.
- Never have new checks sent to you – go to the bank to pick them up.
- Keep personal information locked in a filing cabinet.
- Review your credit card statements carefully to look for unknown charges.
- Take time to check your credit report once per year to look for unknown accounts.
Protecting your identity at the office
Even if you know and trust all of your coworkers, you still need to take steps to protect your information when you’re at work.
- Keep your purse or wallet locked up in the office.
- Never leave important financial documents or credit cards in your car.
- Don’t bank or shop online in the office.
- Don’t save your personal passwords to a work computer.
What to do if your identity is stolen
The first thing you need to do if your identity is stolen is to contact any creditors whose accounts may have been compromised. You may be able to place an alert on the card that will allow you to be contacted before any charges are processed.
If an account is opened in your name, request a copy of the application. The business must satisfy your request within 20 days.
You should also notify each of the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) that your identity has been compromised. They can place a fraud alert that will prevent any new accounts from being opened in your name. This also blocks you from receiving prescreened credit offers. It’s important to note that once identity theft becomes an issue, you are allowed an extra free copy of your credit report that year to check for fraud.
Be aware that placing an alert on your credit reports can affect your ability to apply and receive new lines of credit. Any creditor or lender will be required to follow a strict set of procedures once your identity is at risk. In general, none of your accounts that are suspected to be fraudulent can be transferred between institutions either so a fraudulently created account can’t go to a collector either.
The following resources provide additional information in case you think your identity has been stolen:
Federal Trade Commission
Identity Theft Resource Center
Privacy Rights Center