Tips: Preventing Identity Theft

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is an increasingly common crime in which a criminal obtains your private information, such as your Social Security number or date of birth, and then fraudulently uses that information for his or her benefit. Identity theft crimes range from using a stolen credit card for a single purchase to opening multiple accounts in a victim’s name. A criminal can even assume someone else’s identity, most often for financial gain but sometimes in order to escape law enforcement or begin a new life.

How to Protect Yourself

While you can never completely protect yourself from identity theft, there are steps you can take to significantly reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
  • Shred documents completely before throwing them in the garbage.
  • Never provide personal information to any person or company that initiates contact with you.
  • If a person or business asks for personal information in order to open an account or complete a transaction, confirm that such information is required.
  • Never provide your social security number unless you are 100% confident that the information is going to a legitimate, reputable organization.
  • PIN numbers such as your birth date or the last four digits of your SSN should not be used
  • Do not leave personal information lying in obvious places around your home or office.
  • Deposit outgoing mail in a secure USPS collection box, and collect incoming mail as soon as it arrives.
  • At least once per year, order credit reports from the three credit bureaus and look for suspicious activity.
  • Call 1-888-567-8688 to remove your name from lists sold to credit card companies.
  • Go to to stop direct mail marketing solicitations.
  • Call 1-877-774-2094 to remove your name from lists sold to mortgage refinancing companies.
  • Do not respond to email from strangers.
  • Never download a suspicious file or click on a hyperlink to an unfamiliar site.
  • Avoid storing financial information on your computer, especially if you own a laptop.
  • Update your anti-virus and spyware protection software on a regular basis.
  • Before you throw out a computer, use disk-wiping software that will overwrite all data on the hard drive.
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