Preventing Identity Fraud - Protect Yourself Now!

Preventing Identity Fraud is Critical!

There are number of things you can do to prevent your identity from being stolen, most of them are simple everyday activities that take no time, however, most people don't tend to think about them.  First and foremost, just by learning Preventing Identity Fraudand understanding how identity fraud can happen, and some of the basic things you can do to minimize your risk, you're already ahead of the game!  Here are some of the things you can do to help reduce your risk identity theft fraud:
  • Request eBills from all of your billers (ex. electric, hydro, gas, cable, cell phone, etc.), and cancel paper statements.  While many of us like to have physical copies of our statements, they increase the risk of personal information being stolen.  These bills usually contain our full name, address, account number, phone number, and sometimes even part of our SSN.  These statements can be stolen while in transit in the mail, from your home, or even from your garbage when you throw them out.
  • Preventing identity fraud by keeping your electronic files secure.  Although most companies will store your statements for you on their secure servers, they don't store them forever, and even when they do, accessing archives can take some time.  So I download all of my statements each month and save them in a secure folder on my computer (which is also backed up!).  Just be sure that you have a password on your computer or at least on these folders so that you won't be at risk in case you lose your computer or someone steals it.
  • Tear up or shred any statements or documents with personal information on them before throwing them out.  Fraudsters will actually rummage through your trash when you're not home.  It's amazing what they can piece together about your personal life by just looking through your garbage!
  • Preventing identity fraud by using the bill pay feature in your online banking account to pay your bills.  i.e. Don't pay by check.  Each check you mail out has your name, address, phone number, and bank account number.  Paying electronically is much safer.
  • Notify your bank if your checks are ever lost or stolen.  Depending on your situation, you may also consider closing that account and opening a new one.  Though once you setup all of your payments and direct deposits, closing accounts can become very inconvenient.  Regardless, be sure to notify your bank so that any checks that a fraudster is writing can no longer be cashed.
  • Use bank login security features, and don't always use your mother's maiden name or your birthday as passwords or security questions!
  • Quickly cancel your credit or debit/ATM cards when they're lost or stolen, and fill out any fraud affidavit forms provided by your bank or credit card company.  This basically provides a record that you lost your card, and that you're not responsible for paying any fraudulent charges that may later appear on your account.
  • If anyone calls you claiming to be from your bank, credit credit card company, or some otherwise trusted organization asking to verify your SSN or other personal information, DO NOT TALK TO THEM - hang up!  Tell them you'll call them back using the phone number you have on the back of your credit card, or ask them to mail you a form to your house (they should have your address on file already, so don't give it to them).  Banks and credit card companies will never call you and ask for this information; they already have it, so don't be fooled!
  • Preventing identity fraud by watching out for website Phishing, which is when fraudsters setup websites that look like your bank's website (for example), and they capture your information as you type it in, and later use it to access your real account.  They can do this by having a website address that looks like that of your bank, but may have a common spelling mistake or variation, or different domain extension that you may not even notice.  For example, or (instead of  Major institutions will typically have a number of these variations registered already to avoid this problem, and constantly monitor for potential phishing, however, you should always keep your eyes open for this and be familiar with what these websites typically look like.  Also, rather than click on a link you receive in the email, you should type in the address directly to ensure you're going to the authentic website.
  • Check your credit report regularly.  Preventing identity fraud can be helped by checking your credit report at each of the credit bureaus at least once per year.  Note that there are services that allow you to check your report (and sometimes credit score) for free annually, but make sure that you check all three reports.  Even if you have to pay $10-$20, it's well worth it.  What you're looking for are accounts that you haven't opened, or even accounts that you've closed, but that still have open balances, which may be an indication that someone is using the account under your name.  Check out or for your free credit report.
  • Preventing identity fraud by locking or putting fraud alerts on your credit.  You can contact each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian), and request that they either put fraud alerts on your account or lock your credit entirely.  See below for more information on this topic.
Preventing Identity Fraud

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