1. Protect Your Personal Information at Home
- Safe guard documents with identifying information (date of birth, social security number, accounts numbers, etc.) in a safe place, such as a lock box, safe, or hidden container.
- Shred sensitive documents that you do not need to keep instead of just throwing them away. Sensitive documents include bills, medical forms, account statements, and any documents listing your personal or medical information.
- Sign up to receive bills and statements electronically instead of through the postal service. Get your mail out of your box as soon as you can each day to help reduce the chance of mail theft.
2. Protect Yourself on the Phone
- Do not respond to texts from people you do not know. If you are not sure if a text is from a place you do business, independently call the business at a trusted number to confirm if the text is real.
- Do not click on text links from sources you do not know. These can redirect you to a malice website trying to gain access to your personal, account, or card information. Or, it can be spam messages designed to get you to sig up for services.
- Be wary of unlisted numbers that call your home or cell phone. If you are suspicious of an unsolicited call, the best option is to hang up. Like with texts, if you are unsure if the call is from a legitimate business, contact them yourself from an independently verified number.
- Remember that your financial institution will not contact you to ask you for your account information or identifying information. If someone texts or emails you asking for your card number, account number, or personal identifying information, hang up and independently contact your financial institution to a number that you know.
3. Protect Your Computer
Use passwords to log on to your computer, laptop, or tablet that are not easy to guess. Passwords should:
- Contain at least 8 characters
- Include letters, numbers, and special characters (such as #, @, $, *)
- Be different from account or other passwords
- Not be written down or shared
- Store your laptop or tablet in a secure place when not in use.
- Log off of your computer, tablet, or laptop when not in use.
- Only allow those you trust to access your computer, laptop, or tablet.
4. Protect Yourself Online
- Do not use the same password or login ID for each site or online account.
- Do not share your passwords with others.
- Set up log in and password change alerts for online accounts and websites. Most sites include settings to receive a text or email if a password change or reset is requested or if someone logs in from an unknown computer or smart device.
- Do not respond to email or click on links from suspicious or unfamiliar sources.
- Whenever possible, only log into protected Wi-Fi that includes a password to connect to Wi-Fi.
- When using public Wi-Fi, do not sign into personal accounts, such as online banking, or those websites that require you to enter your password.
- Do not store your passwords or enter personal information into a publicly-used computer, such as at work, school, or the library.
5. Watch for Signs of Identity Theft
There are several simple steps you can take to know the signs of identity theft:
- Read all of your mail. Especially bank statements, credit card bills, and utility bills. If you notice suspicious credit card charges or account withdrawals or receive a notice that a request was recently made to change your address, immediately contact the business.
- Be aware if you suddenly stop receiving a bill or statement. This can be a sign of mail theft or change of address in an attempt to gain your personal or account information.
- When logging into accounts, check the last log in date/time. Most online account services will list the last log in on the home page. Regularly check your account activity and history when logging in to pay your bills or check your bank accounts.
- Get a free copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com or 1-877-322-8228. You can get one free copy from each of the three reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) once each year. Tip: You can check your credit three times a year for free if you only order form one company every four months until you’ve requested one from each company.
- Review the credit report and ensure your personal information, dates of inquiry, and listed credit accounts are all correct.
- Report discrepancies as soon as possible to the companies where you suspect fraud has happened or if information is incorrect.
- If you suspect fraud, contact one of the three credit reporting bureaus to report fraud and ask for an initial fraud alert. This is free and lasts 90 days. That bureau will contact the other two for you, and you can receive a free credit report from each when fraud has occurred.
- Contact the companies where fraud has occurred to develop a plan to recover form identity theft and to safeguard against future identity theft.