Identity Theft – How to Protect Yourself

There are a number of simple steps you can take to minimize your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Practice Safe Internet Use 
Delete spam email that asks for personal information. Keep your anti-spyware and anti-virus software up to date. Shop online only with secure web pages (check to make sure the site’s address begins with https://).

Destroy Private Records
Tear up or shred credit card statements; ATM, credit or debit card receipts; bank deposit receipts; loan solicitations and other documents that contain private financial information.

Secure Your Mail
Empty your mailbox quickly and get a mailbox lock. When mailing bill payments and checks, consider mailing them at the post office or a secure mailbox.

Be Careful With Your Social Security Number
Your Social Security number is a major target for identity thieves, as it can be used to gain access to your credit report and bank accounts. Never carry your card with you. Instead, memorize the number and keep the card in a secure place at home or in a safe deposit box. 

Check Your Credit Report
At least once a year, obtain and review your credit report for suspicious activity. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report (one per year) at or by contacting any of the three major credit bureaus.

Beware of Scams
Always be on the defensive with your private information. Never give personal information to telemarketers or respond to emails from someone claiming to represent your bank, credit card issuer, a government agency or a charity.

If You Do Become a Victim
Keeping an eye on your financial information allows you to act quickly if you fall victim to identity theft. Contacting the authorities and credit agencies minimizes damage to your financial wellbeing.

Who to Contact

Credit Bureaus: Immediately contact the fraud departments of each credit bureau listed below. Let them know you are a victim of identity theft and request that a fraud alert be placed on your file. You can also request a security freeze, preventing credit issuers from obtaining access to your credit files without your permission. This prevents thieves from opening new credit cards in your name.

Credit Bureaus:

Order a credit report: (800) 685-1111
Fraud hotline: (800) 766-0008

Order a credit report / Fraud hotline: (800) 397-3742

Order a credit report: (800) 322-8228
Fraud hotline: (800) 680-7289

Law Enforcement:  Report ID theft to local law enforcement. If the crime occurred somewhere other than where you live, you may want to report it to law enforcement there as well. The police will create an “identity theft report.” Make sure to obtain a copy for your records.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC does not investigate identity theft cases, but they can share information you give them with investigators nationwide. For more information about combating ID theft, visit the FTC’s ID Theft site. The FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline is 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338).

This content has been provided by Financial Wisdom and is intended to serve as a general guideline.