Identity Theft

Identity Theft Prevention Tips

How can I prevent becoming an identity theft victim? While no one can totally prevent this crime from occurring, here are some positive steps to take which will decrease your risk of this growing problem.

How Thieves Can Obtain Your Information

  • They go through your trashcan, looking for straight cut or unshredded papers.
  • They steal your mail or your wallet.
  • They listen in on conversations you have in public.
  • They trick you into giving them the information over the telephone or by email.
  • They buy the information either on the Internet or from someone who might have stolen it.
  • They steal it from a loan or credit application form you filled out or from files at a hospital, bank, school or business that you deal with.
    • They may have obtained it from dumpsters outside of such companies.
  • They get it from your computer, especially those without firewalls.
  • They may be a friend or relative or someone who works for you who has access to your information.

Tips to Consumers

  • Check your credit reports once a year from all three of the credit reporting agencies by accessing the Annual Credit Report website.
  • Guard your Social Security number. When possible, don't carry your Social Security card with you.
  • Don't put your Social Security number or drivers license number on your checks.
  • Guard your personal information. You should never give your Social Security number to anyone unless they have a good reason for needing it.

Tips to Businesses

It is vital that the business community acts now to implement and follow better information handling processes. The following areas need to be considered when measuring your information handling security.

  • Information Acquisition - Do you need the information? Are you acquiring it in a safe manner?
  • Storage - What computer security measures have you placed around the systems storing personal data? It should be considered highly classified and not common access.
  • Access - Who has access? Is it on a need-to-know basis and access audited? Is there password control over systems? Is there a cafeteria worker asking your child for his/her SSN prior to receiving lunch? Did you do a background check on those who have access to personal information of employees and customers? Do temps have access to secure info?
  • Disposal - Are electronic and paper documents containing personal information rendered unreadable prior to disposal? What is in your dumpster? Is it a treasure chest for thieves and for consumer action attorneys ready to sue you for placing their clients in jeopardy?
  • Distribution - How do you handle information? Is your employee requiring a member of the public to repeat a SSN out loud where it can be overheard? The public display, use, and exchange of SSN (including on membership cards carried in wallets) needs to be reconsidered. You place people at much higher risk when you do so.

Other Tips

  • Fraud and security alerts placed on credit reports must be honored.
  • Businesses that print out cash register receipts need to make sure that credit card numbers are partially truncated to help consumers avoid credit card takeover.
  • Mail sent to the public either should not include account information or Social Security number. At the least, truncating part of the number should be considered.
  • Watch for people who may try to eavesdrop and overhear the information you give out orally.
  • Carefully destroy papers you throw out, especially those with sensitive or identifying information. A crosscut paper shredder works best.
  • Be suspicious of telephone solicitors. Never provide information unless you have initiated the call.
  • Delete without replying to any suspicious email requests. Check our Scam Alert page for recent problem areas.
  • Do not use the red flag signaling outgoing mail in your mailbox. This is a sign for thieves that information may be present. Take outgoing mail to a mailbox or directly to the post office.
  • Reduce the number of preapproved credit card offers you receive by calling 888-5 OPT OUT (888-567-8688). They will ask for your Social Security Number.