Home > Identity Theft > 15 Steps You Can Take to Prevent Identity Theft

Comments 0 Comments

While identity theft now gets its own category as a crime, it contributes to the most common type of crime in the U.S.: theft. Millions of Americans (and people all over the world) fall victim to identity theft every year, and it seems there’s little we can do to stop it.

However, that type of thinking is part of the reason that identity thieves have had so much success in recent years. With online shopping and massive data breaches becoming more prevalent every day, it’s important for every consumer to understand how they are vulnerable to identity theft, and how to protect themselves.

1. Be stingy with your social security number.

The only people who ever need your social security number are government agencies, credit bureaus, lenders, employers, and banks. Do not give your social security number to anyone else, and do not carry your card with you on a daily basis. That will increase the likelihood of it being lost or stolen.

2. Keep a close eye on your credit.

Checking your credit at regular intervals is the best way to make sure your credit doesn’t get stolen. At the very least, take advantage of your free yearly credit report, but it might also help to enlist the services of a credit monitoring company as well.

3. Don’t let your mail linger in its box.

If you have a mailbox that’s easily accessible and unlocked, either replace it with one that locks, or make sure to snag your mail as soon as the mail delivery person places it in the box.

4. Pay attention to your mail.

If you’ve stopped receiving mail, it’s likely that someone has replaced your address with theirs and it now receiving your mail instead of you.

5. Lock down your Wi-Fi usage.

At home, don’t leave your Wi-Fi network open for anyone to use. Apply a password so that you know exactly who is accessing your network. If your network is already password protected, try changing it to something a little more complex than “password.”  Experts say that phrases actually work best for this.

6. Be careful when joining public Wi-Fi networks.

If you must join the Wi-Fi network at the coffee shop, airport, or restaurant, make sure you don’t view any sensitive information, and that includes checking your email or the balance on your bank account.

7. Use your phone’s security features.

Many of today’s smart phones have features that allow users to protect their information. This can be especially helpful for those who use other features such as Apple Pay, where credit card information is stored on your phone. There are also features that allow you to wipe the information from your phone remotely in the event that it gets stolen.

8. Invest in a shredder.

Shredders aren’t very expensive, so they aren’t technically considered an investment, especially when you consider the alternative. You may not want to dig through trash to find out sensitive information about someone, but some criminals do this. Save yourself the hassle and shred any financial documents you throw away, even if there’s no important information on them.

9. Actually read your credit card statements.

One of the easiest ways to know if your identity has been stolen is by checking your credit card statement. Any suspicious activity should jump out at you immediately, and you should call your credit card company the second this happens.

10. Update your passwords.

If you’ve been using the same password for 10 years, and/or using the same password across accounts, it’s time to update. Old passwords are easy to crack.

11. Use caution when shopping online.

When you shop online, as many of us do, it’s a good idea to check and make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable site. Additionally, it’s smart to use your credit card instead of your debit card, since credit purchases can be reversed, but if someone is able to steal all of the money in your checking account, nothing can reverse that.

12. Be careful who you share your information with.

Don’t give your information to anyone who hasn’t told you what they will do with it. This includes those emails you keep getting from the Nigerian prince who wants to share his fortune with you. (He doesn’t.)

13. Protect your devices.

Most electronic devices allow users the option to password protect, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and more. Use these options, and if you are prone to leaving things where they don’t belong, make sure to keep a closer eye on them.

14. Leave extra credit cards at home.

Let’s be honest: you don’t really plan to use all ten of the credit cards in your wallet at any given time, do you? It’s a good idea to take out the credit card(s) you need, and leave the rest at home with your social security card.

15. Write “please see ID” on the back.

While not every retailer or server will do this, if you write “please see ID” on the backs of your credit cards, it has the potential to deter someone from stealing and using your card down the line.

If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

Image credit iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other sponsored content on Credit.com are Partners with Credit.com. Credit.com receives compensation if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any financial products or cards offered.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.



Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team