Reducing Your Risk of Identity Theft

Reducing Your Risk of Identity Theft

Others can get your personal information in many ways including

  • data breaches
  • discarded documents
  • stolen wallets/purses
  • stolen mail
  • phishing

While you can't always prevent identity theft, you can reduce your risk.

Limit Your Cards

Limiting the number of credit and debit cards you carry to only the ones you need reduces your risk if your wallet is stolen or lost.

Watch Your Cards

People have been known to use skimmers to steal card information at restaurants and stores. It’s also good to look for signs of possible tampering at gas pumps and ATMs.

Protect Your Credit

It’s important to get your credit reports at least once a year to look for unusual activity (accounts you never opened). You can also freeze your credit for free so that no one (not even you) can open new credit in your name until you unfreeze it.

Make Better Passwords (and Secure Them)

When creating passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs), don’t use

  • the last four digits of your Social Security number
  • your mother’s maiden name
  • your birth date
  • your middle name
  • your pet’s name
  • consecutive numbers
  • other things that could easily be discovered

It’s best to never reuse passwords and consider using a password manager (each account should have a unique and complex password). If you have the option, also use two-factor authentication wherever you can.

Protect Your Social Security Number

Provide your Social Security number (SSN) only when absolutely necessary (tax forms, employment records, banking and investment transactions). If a business asks for it, see if there's another number that can be used instead. If a government agency ask for it, look for the Privacy Act notice. The notice will tell you if

  • it's required
  • what will be done with it
  • what happens if you refuse to provide it

Also, don’t carry your Social Security card with you unless you need to have it (the first day on a new job).

Be Responsible With Your Documents

It’s best to store documents containing sensitive personal information securely in your home using a locking file cabinet or safe. When you no longer need these records, carefully dispose of them.  For example, you shouldn't throw away credit offers or bank, credit and investment statements without shredding them.