Unfortunately, there isn’t anything that can guarantee you won’t fall victim to identity theft. But there are some identity theft protection steps that you can take to help reduce your risk and minimize the impact if a problem does occur, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC recommends the following identity theft solutions:
- Protect your Social Security number – Don’t carry your Social Security card or number on you. If your state uses social security numbers on your driver’s license, request a different number; and do the same if your insurance company uses social security numbers as policy numbers. Only give out your number when absolutely necessary. If organizations or businesses other than your bank or employer ask for your social security number, be certain that the number is necessary. It is up to you to decide whether or not you want to share your number and do business with them.
- Treat your trash and mail carefully – Believe or not, identity thieves often gain access to personal data through garbage and recycling bins and mailboxes. Check your mail as soon as possible after it is delivered, drop off outgoing mail at a post office and if you’ll be going out of town, set up a vacation hold for your mail. To thwart garbage-digging thieves, shred all documents with personal data.
- Be on guard when using the Internet – Secure your computer with appropriate software and only share your personal information when absolutely necessary and with trusted sites.
- Select intricate passwords – Password protect your credit card, bank, and phone accounts and use complicated passwords. The FTC recommends avoiding using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, a series of consecutive numbers, or a single word that would appear in a dictionary.
- Verify a source before sharing information – Never give out personal information (via phone, mail or online) unless you know who you are dealing with. Legitimate companies will not contact you asking you to confirm your information.
- Safeguard your purse and wallet – It sounds basic enough, but don’t make purse and wallet nabbing easy. And only carry the I.D., cash and money you’ll need when you go out, not every credit card, your social security card, passport, etc.
- Store information in secure locations – Keep your information at home securely locked up, especially if you have roommates, employees or visitors in your home. Lock up your purse at work.
- Place a freeze if necessary – Many states allow you to freeze your credit – making it very difficult for thieves to open up a new account in your name.
- Get identity theft insurance - Identity theft insurance won’t stop a thief, but it can minimize loss if theft occurs.