Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

There are many ways to protect your private information from fraud. Though some tasks take a bit of effort, be aware that cleaning up the mess identity thieves leave behind is far more difficult and time-consuming.

Credit reports

  • Periodically check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can obtain a copy of each report free once a year from
  • Dispute inaccurate information immediately

Personal identity information

  • Keep all identification and financial documents in a safe and private place
  • Provide personal information only when:
    • You know how it will be used
    • You are certain it won’t be shared
    • You initiated contact and know who you’re dealing with
  • Make all passwords hard to guess by using a complex combination of numbers and upper and lower case letters
  • Request a vacation hold if you can’t pick up your mail
  • Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office
  • Remove mail from your mailbox promptly
  • Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work
  • Memorize your Social Security number rather than carrying your Social Security card
  • Do not have your Social Security or driver’s license number printed on your checks
  • Review your Social Security annual statement for accuracy
  • Provide your Social Security number only when necessary and to those you absolutely trust
  • Before revealing your Social Security numbers, ask:
    • Why your number is needed
    • How your number will be used
    • What happens if you refuse

Credit Cards and ATM/Debit Cards

  • Carry only those cards you really need
  • Shred all statements and pre-approved credit card offers with a crosscut shredder
  • Opt-out of receiving pre-approved credit offers
  • Photocopy both sides of your credit cards so you have all the account numbers, expiration dates, and phone numbers, and keep the copies in a safe place
  • Cancel unused credit card accounts
  • Be aware of people behind you at the ATM or anywhere else you use your card
  • When you give your credit or debit card to someone for a transaction, watch them swipe it and inspect the receipt for accuracy
  • Know your billing cycles and contact creditor if bills don’t arrive on time
  • Examine the charges on your credit card statements every month

Checking Accounts

  • Know where your checkbook and debit cards are at all times
  • Print firmly and use indelible ink when writing checks
  • Check your account statement for fraudulent activity
  • Do not give out your checking account number unless you know the company requesting the information and understand why the information is necessary


  • Update virus protection software periodically, and after every new virus alert is announced
  • Do not download files or open hyperlinks sent from people you don’t know
  • Use a firewall program to prevent your computer from being accessible to hackers
  • Use a secure browser to guard the security of your online transactions
  • Enter personal and financial information only when there is a “lock” icon ) on the browser’s status bar and look for the URL to read “https” instead of “http”
  • If you must store personal and financial information on your laptop:
    •  Use a strong password – one that is a hard-to-guess combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers
    • Don’t use an automatic log-in feature
    • Always log off when you’re finished
    • Before disposing of a computer, delete personal information using a “wipe” utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive