Despite your best efforts, identity theft can occur no matter how cautious you are. The most common methods are for identity thieves to steal your wallet, purse, mail, or to rummage through your trash, all of which contain personal information. To protect yourself against identity theft:
- Never give out any personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Don't carry your Social Security card.
- Never pre-print your driver's license number, phone number or Social Security number on checks.
- Shred anything that shows your name, address, and date of birth, Social Security number or personal account numbers.
- Follow-up with creditors when bills don't arrive on time. A missing bill could mean someone has used your credit card account and changed your billing address in an attempt to cover their tracks.
- Minimize the number of credit cards you carry. If your wallet is stolen it will mean fewer headaches.
- Order a copy of your credit report every year. Make sure all information is accurate and includes only those activities you have authorized.
If you become a victim of identify theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends the following:
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus. Ask them to flag your file with a fraud alert including a statement that creditors should get your permission before opening any new accounts.
- Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Keep a copy for yourself or to provide to future creditors.
If you suspect you are the victim of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline at 877.ID.THEFT. For more information about account fraud and identity theft visit the Federal Trade Commission. They offer an extensive library of resources and information.