13 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft

September 10, 2020

As more and more parts of daily life transition to online, data security is becoming more and more important! Here are 13 tips to protecting your identity. 

14.4 million consumers were victims of identity fraud in 2018, according to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research.

Here are some tips:

  1. Minimize how much personal information you carry in your purse or wallet. Limit the credit cards you carry, and don’t carry your social security card or passport unless necessary.


  2. Guard your credit card. When you make a purchase keep your wallet in your hand until the clerk gives back your card. Don’t let nearby “shoulder surfers” look at your card while making a transaction. Shield your hand when using ATM machines. Be alert to those around you when giving out personal information on the phone.


  3. Be careful with credit card and ATM receipts. Don’t leave them behind or throw them into public trash containers or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.


  4. Do not give out personal information — unless you initiated the contact. Be sure you know who you’re dealing with on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet. Be sure your connection is secure, and you’re not being overheard.


  5. Be careful when shopping online. Be sure the website you’re using has the locked padlock image in the browser status bar or displays https:// (rather than http://), which indicates that it has a high level of security.


  6. Be aware of phishing and pharming scams. Criminals use fake emails and websites to impersonate legitimate organizations. It happens a lot. If you don’t know the source, be extremely careful when opening emails, attachments and instant messages from unknown sources. Criminals use the illusion of familiarity that they represent organizations you do business with. Be very suspicious! Never give out personal, financial or password related information via email.


  7. Keep your computer security up to date. Install firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs on your computer and update them regularly.


  8. Monitor your accounts. Your credit card companies and banks can alert you to suspicious activity. But don’t rely on them. Read your bank and credit card statements carefully to make sure all transactions are accurate. If you suspect a problem, contact the companies immediately.


  9. Order copies of your credit report and review for errors. Preferably, get one from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion). By law, you should be able to get at least one for free, and many banks and other financial institutions provide them as a service to their customers.


  10. Be sure your credit reports are accurate. They contain not only information about credit accounts that have been opened in your name and how you pay your bills, but also where you work and live, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested or filed for bankruptcy. Go over every detail and make sure they are accurate. Contact them about anything that isn’t.


  11. Place fraud alerts at the major credit bureaus. A fraud alert goes out to creditors telling them to contact you before they open any new accounts or before making any changes (like changes of address) to your existing accounts. This is intended to make it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. You just need to contact one bureau; by law, the agency you contact is required to contact the other two.


  12. Use secure passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. “Password” is not a good password. Also avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, any part of your Social Security number or phone number. If you suspect a problem with your credit card, change your password.


  13. Shred documents with personal information before disposing of them. This includes any paperwork with credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts or credit card applications.