Natural Resource Defense Council

Identity Theft Rx

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Protecting Your Personal Information Strategies to Protect Yourself Travel light. Don't carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, your birth certificate or your passport with you except when necessary. Keep them stored in a secure place. Cancel credit cards you don't use. Shred the evidence. Invest in a paper shredder for disposing of credit, debit and ATM receipts; preapproved credit card offers; and other personal financial information. Protect your passwords. Memorize your passwords and PINs rather than writing them down. Vary your passwords and make them unique. Be Social Security-savvy. Don't have your Social Security number printed on your checks, and make sure it's not on your driver's license. Check your checks. Pick up checks at your bank rather than having them mailed to your home address. Keep checks in a secure location and shred any unused checks from closed accounts. Use caution on the phone. Never give credit card, bank or Social Security information to anyone over the telephone unless you made the call or you can verify that the call is legitimate. Stop spam. A common email scam claims you've won a prize and asks for personal information to process the transaction. Do not respond to the email, as this will likely increase the volume of spam you receive. Take advantage of spam filters available through your email providers, and report spam to your provider. Review statements regularly. Reconcile your bank and credit card statements in a timely manner, and follow up on any discrepancies immediately. Check your credit. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that you be entitled to a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877.322.8228 to request your report, and then contact creditors to question any unauthorized activity. Identity theft occurs when someone uses another individual's Social Security number, bank account number or other financial information to commit fraud or other crimes. Beyond an invasion of privacy, identity theft victims may lose money or be refused loans or jobs. It's a serious and common crime, but it does not need to cause you constant fear. If you start performing the tactics described in this guide on a regular basis, identity theft will simply be something you are actively avoiding.

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